71-year-old grandmother and former nurse, Monica Cromhout, might be an unlikely campaigner for the benefits of psychedelic magic mushrooms, but she’s at the forefront of the drive to have South Africa’s drugs laws declared unconstitutional. Mushrooms, she believes, hold the key to solving many of our society’s problems. How Monica went from conventional, law-abiding teetotaler to passionate evangelist for the benefits of the psychedelic is the subject of the second episode of First Person, the Kagiso Media podcast series launched earlier this month. Hosted by Daily Maverick’s MARIANNE THAMM.
First Person aims to uncover the extraordinary stories that lurk behind some of the most ordinary-looking South African front doors – in Monica’s case the door of a very normal house in a quiet street in Somerset West. It was there that she had her first mushroom experience during which she was given the message that she should open a school for mushrooms. How she did that and how that, in turn, led to her arrest, brief imprisonment and determination to challenge the law is all revealed in the podcast.
“Of course Monica’s story is apparently bizarre, but it is also more than that,” says Marianne. “It’s about being open to new experiences, to whatever comes your way. It is also about standing up for something you really believe in. It takes a lot to fight a system that says you aren’t right, I respect that.”
Photo: Marianne and Monica take a tour of Monica’s garden where some of the Soma participants would hang out. (Photo: Jayne Morgan)
“Monica is almost the perfect First Person subject,” says podcast producer, Jayne Morgan. “The series is all about people who are not what they seem, who are quietly doing things you’d never imagine if you walked past them in the street or sat next to them in a bar, and Monica is probably the most unlikely ‘shroom user you can imagine. Plus she’s an amazing storyteller. We think that this edition will really take listeners on a journey of discovery – in more ways than one.” DM
Find First Person – Monica Cromhout on www.firstpersonpod.com or access it and subscribe via iTunes. It’s a free download.
Main photo: Monica demonstrates how she used to set the mood with a suitable soundtrack. (Photo: Jayne Morgan)