Holy Hustlers

Richard Werbner
53 minutes


This film illustrates the creative tension between holiness and hustling, in a time of escalating crisis in an Apostolic church in Botswana.

Charismatic, street-wise young men, living in Botswana's capital, command the prophetic domain in Eloyi, their Apostolic faith-healing church, at a time of escalating crisis. Bitter, sinful accusations divide Eloyi's village-based archbishop and his son, the city-based bishop. The church itself, seen to be `under destruction', splits. Prophets take sides. Waging a spiritual war of good and evil, they swing passionately. They run wild, exorcising demons. Calm, they meditate and pray. Inspired in trance by the Holy Spirit, prophets suffer vicariously. Patients seen them feeling patients' pain in their own bodies. But beyond empathy and avowed compassion, prophets hustle and shock. Pushing impatiently, they jostle, even batter their patients emotionally with fear of hidden malice, cunning and entrapment by trusted relatives or intimates, usually witchcraft from home beyond the city. For protection, they extract fees the church forbids.

As young city men with strong village ties and village origins, prophets impose their own street-wise vision of deceptive appearances, dangers in a familiar world of belonging. The tension between holiness and hustling is creative. This film shows how, in a crisis, city prophets assert themselves powerfully because they are both holy and hustlers.