He was an author, illustrator, sculptor, heaven-herd and philosopher. He lived in the Ceza district where he received training as an inyanga from both his grandfathers and his father.
From the 1950s he recorded Zulu cultural and religious myths in words and pictures. SchlÁ¶sser’s collation of his texts into a Bantubibel in 1977 in part addresses Christianity and its rejection of traditional Zulu beliefs.
His works are an expression of Zulu spirituality, religion and tradition. He was born in the Vryheid district in KwaZulu-Natal, into a family with a lineage of lightning doctors. He was unable to attend school as he carried medicine bags for his father who trained him how to protect people’s homesteads from lightning. He also trained Madela in smithery, a knowledge of which is necessary to qualify as a lightning doctor. The Zulu Creator God, Mvelinqangi, revealed to him many details about the creation of winds, the heavens and the earth which came to him in visions and dreams. These he recorded in his autobiographical writings and illustrations, from 1951 on.
He worked briefly on the railways in 1927, which he does not mention in his autobiographical notes. In 1930 he was baptised at Ohlangeni and for a short time he was a member of a Black separatist church and was undoubtedly familiar with the Bible. However, he was not satisfied with the Bible and decided to look for the ‘Tree of Creation’ he had dreamt about many years before. In 1951 while meditating under a tree he discovered it. In order to keep Zulu traditions alive for future generations he learnt to write. In 1957 he began to record his life story and his visionary revelations in ink, pencil, crayons and watercolour on writing pads.