On this page are published the books reviewed by the students who follow the seminar “Contexts, Sources and critical-historical methods for the research of Religion”.
Lynn Abrams, Oral History Theory, NY : Routledge, 2010, 209p. A Review by Ramson Miracle Torsu.
Have you considered how reliable oral information can still be useful in this our 21st century for your data collection? or are you among those who are of the view that oral information should not be considered as an authentic medium in search of information especially when related to history ? Well, if you belong to this group, then here comes another opinion through the work of Lynn Abrams’ book to challenge that ideology of yours. In her new book, Oral History Theory, Lynn Abrams has successfully created a user-friendly guide to the practical application of theory especially Oral theory. Abrams, an experienced lecture in the University of Glasgow at the department of oral history, defines oral history as a method of research which is distinct from other historical endeavors because of its collaborative approach that’s the researcher instigates and leads interviews and from these interactions historical documents are created. The historian’s involvement in the production of historical data creates possibilities for new lines of historical inquiry, such as studying individuals or groups whose experiences have not previously been documented, though the oral historian’s method also comes with it unique difficulties.
In this book Abram stated that her work was developed as result of her need for a textbook that will unite oral history theory and practice. She said the need for this initiation came when she taught a course on this subject to undergraduate students at Glasgow University. The book begins with an introduction to the history of oral history methodology. It describes the four common steps in the process that’s the original interview, recording of the interview, transcription and interpretation of the interview material. Abrams points out the many layers of interaction that occur within the interview: between the interviewee himself/herself, between the interviewer and interviewee, and between participants and their culture. She explains the need for accurate transcriptions of interviews and explores both sides of the argument for maintaining a narrator’s linguistic idiosyncrasies. Abrams argues that it is possible to strike a balance between meaning and detailed transcription, and she illustrates this balance with examples from her own interviews with Shetland Islanders, whose vocabulary and accent can be almost incomprehensible to outsiders. Abrams demonstrates that without some editing on the historian’s part a speaker’s meaning can be lost to the general readership, saying this she does however acknowledge that the search for the narrator’s meaning is not a simple task.
Abrams explains that oral history theory helps historians decode data, enabling an understanding of the links between individual and general narratives, between personal and public experience, and between the past and the present. Abrams goes on to explain how oral history differs from conventional historical methodologies, which rely on written sources for data. She discusses orality, narrative, subjectivity, memory, mutability, collaboration and personal testimony, referring to these aspects as the peculiarities of oral history, describes how each influences the interview process, and offers some practical advice of which one is historians, Abrams states, must approach their interviews with an openness that permits the interviewees to influence the direction of the projects. In these ways, Abrams argues, historical works can create more satisfactory representations of their oral sources.
Many readers may see the book as an excellent reference tool for oral history students because it provides useful insight at all stages of an oral history project. In this book Abrams’ clear explanations of terminology and theories allow novices like myself to better understand when to apply particular theories in our various oral search works. Her skill of illuminating theories with dozens of recent examples, demonstrating how particular theories have been employed in oral history projects around the world and this comes to deepen my desire of specializing in this field. This book is recommended to anyone who is interested in understanding the complexities of the oral history theory because he/she would benefit from reading it.
Adrian Hastings, African Catholicism : Essays in Discovery, London, SCM Press, and Philadelphia, Trinity Press International, 1989, 208p. A Review by MAURO FRANCISCO PAULO PANZO
Adrian Hastings is an academic, who inaugurated his office as a professor of Religious Studies at University of Zimbabwe, in 1983. This book is a result of different lectures, seminars, conferences at various places and years.
It has 12 chapters, and each chapter talks about different topic, but all of them are connected to the question of the impact of Catholicism in Africa; the conciliation of African Traditional Religion and the New African Catholicism, considering the African Culture.
In this book, the author brings up important points such as the acceptance of Catholicism in Africa; the role of the women in the new African Catholicism. Generally, the book talks about how the Africans welcomed Christianity through Catholicism.
Adrian Hastings recognizes that, at the beginning, during colonization period, the Gospel did not find an easy soil for its implementation. This, was due to the fact that, the first contact was made under the yoke of the colonizers; Secondly, there was already the so called “African Traditional Religion”, which had more cultural elements. These elements are the central approach of the author. In order to do a deeper research, he had to go to different African countries, such as Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC (Kinshasa).
The author begins by straightly asserting the encounter of Roman Catholic Church and African Traditional Religion. On the African side, those who received the Catholicism, and gave birth to the so called “African Catholicism”, not always had they a consistent Christian education. The catechists, had a limited formation, and thus, carried out their faith based also on African Traditional Religion. Thus, the beginning of Catholicism in Africa was marked by a poor establishment.
As he develops his ideas, the author finds out that, even after accepting the Catholicism, Africans still had problems of incorporating certain elements of Roman Catholic Church. On one hand, the traditional elements were not completely aside. On the other hand, as the Roman Catholic Church used Latin as vernacular language, the translation of certain words to African languages was a problem too, as he shows on the chapter seven.
What he proposes is that, the church in Africa should be, firstly integrative. For it, he takes the case of South Africa, where the Apartheid situation affected all the spheres. The social, political, racial situation, should not affect the koinonia in African Catholicism. Secondly, the African Catholicism is all united with Roman Church, despite the colonization context through which it came in, and other challenges that some priests went through in Rome and Paris.
This book is such a rich material for those who are interested in the study of religion, particularly African Catholicism. It is an important material for those who would like to deepen their knowledge in Church History.
Ogbu U. Kalu, Power, Poverty and Prayer: The Challenges of Poverty and Pluralism in African Christianity, 1960-1996, Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2006, 258p. A Review by Moses Baruta
Ogbu was famous for his scholarship in African Christianity. He taught Religious Studies in various universities in Nigeria. While teaching, he also held some administrative posts. Ogbu was also a renown Theology professor in seminaries until his unexpected death in 2009.
Ogbu’s book is very well thought out and has coherent ideas. It is an interesting and educative book. Ogbu’s book focuses more on the injuries of ethnocentric missionaries, the African emotional response which ignores their pressing concerns. As a weakness the book underlines the fact that African theologians have not drawn from history and political science but instead have worked within the unrealistic representations of the past derived from cultural nationalists. Ogbu’s engaging volume, which interacts with a range of literatures as well as with his own West African experience, is helpful to such tendencies, that a mature church can engage no longer in missionary-bashing but rather in self-criticism. The history of Christianity in Africa is not what the missionaries did or did not do, but what African’s did with the gospel entrusted to their care. He observes that the church in Africa, has for the most part, failed to produce an adequate theology and institutional strength to oppose the approaching power of the state or deal with the problem of impoverishment. For solutions he looks not to the decrees of church leaders and institutional organizations. In particular, he believes that connection should be made with the sizeable and vital Pentecostal and charismatic movement which he says that it has swept the continent since the 1970s. It is a showcase for Christian values yet exposing the weaknesses of its imbalance.
The book is so informative and enriching. The author highlights different issues of ethnocentric missionaries and the injuries that might have been caused, and the African emotional response on such issues. Among other issues are, the Pentecostalism’s capacity to mobilize women and the youth marginal categories in African society, Pentecostal contribution to the political culture and how Pentecostals contribute on this. He says that Pentecostalism contributes more than most of other scholars have done. Ogbu writes that Pentecostalism rebuilds the individual by creating new sources of empowerment and personal security, and it produces models of responsible leadership through biblical models founded on the biographies of figures such as Cyrus and Mordecai. He holds that the danger of Pentecostalism lies in its exclusivist tendencies. Kalu argues for a greater pluralism and the need for dialogue between these two vital strands of contemporary global religions (Christianity and Islam). The author argues that their goal should be to join efforts to restrain greedy African states led by heavy-handed politicians. He proposes a new theology, attentive not just to gender and generation, but also to the environment. He finally suggests that the ideological basis of this new theology should be drawn from primal African religion.
Ogbu’s book is particularly useful. It is a scholarly and commendable book for it is an eye-opener for the present-day theologians and Christians in general. This book was approached both with a desire to understand its content for knowledge and also for review. It is also intended for getting a good grade. As mentioned before, the book focuses more on the injuries of ethnocentric missionaries on African emotional response and the socio-economic rhetoric in African churches which at times are hit by political power influence. It was intelligently written and has amusing stories about Christian medieval realties and the current realities. It is an inspiring book, enjoyable and informative. It invites readers to invest in learning more about the History of the Church especially in Africa.
Thomas Clarck Oden, How Africa shaped the Christian mind. Rediscovering the African seedbed of Western Christianity, IVP Books, 2007, 204p. A Review by Komlan Justin Gbedjeha
Born in 1931, this American Methodist theologian died in 2016. He is remembered above all for being the father of paleo-orthodox theological movement. This terminology which he coined signifies the theological approach that focuses on the primacy of the wisdom of Christian Historical patristic and conciliar teachings in order to promote consensus among modern believers. He thus promoted classic Christianity, authored dozens of books, aricticles and essays. He had been a renowned lecturer in prominent academic institutes such as Yale University and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
The main thesis of the American theologian, T.C. Oden, is that African intellectual and textual histories especially from the perspective of Christian tradition have not yet been satisfactorily appreciated by both Africans and non- Africans. While the rest of the world sometimes easily forget about the African origin of many great Christians, contemporary Africans themselves difficultly recall them as their own. “Not only Westerners but tragically many African scholars and church leaders also have ignored their earliest African ancestors”(p.11).
The author’s aim is therefore, to demonstrate how together with Asia, Africa played an important role in the formation of Christianity. To achieve this goal, the book is divided in two main parts: “the African Seedbed of Western Christianity” and “African Orthodox recovery”. The last section of the book will offer a great and rich ‘Literary chronology of Christianity in Africa in the first millennium’.
From the early days of Christianity, there had been an intellectual and theological flows of the Church’s greatest production from the South to the North. For instance, the great role played by the Alexandrian library and catechetical schools illustrate such reality. History has shown that many theologians from Africa were sought out in the Northern and Eastern Mediterranean shores. One outstanding example is that of the great exegete Origen of Alexandria, ‘pioneer of Biblical exegesis, who was needed severally in Caesarea and Palestina. Other names can be cited like Antony and Pachomius whose ingenuity made of monasticism a worldwide Christendom movement. Unfortunately, when mention is made of monasticism in Christianity, the name of Benedict of Nursia is the one that often comes to mind. However, before him Africans such as Antony and Pachomius fostered the monastic movement in the Church. Even the great theologians of Cappadocia had their instructors who were Africans.
Thus, contrary to the common thread of the contemporary Church, in early Christianity, the intellectual movement was from the South to the North. Hence, for Oden, Church history cannot be studied adequately without taking into consideration African contribution to the formation and development of Christian culture. Such an enterprise seems implausible. From the biblical perspective itself the role played by Africa cannot be downplayed. From Joseph, son of Jacob, to the Holy family of Nazareth through Moses the history of salvation has been intimately connected to the African milieu. The first Gospel narrative is associated to St Mark whom tradition identified as the pioneer and evangelizer of Alexandrian Christianity.
Linking this African cultural heritage — mainly divided into North Africa and Egypt without forgetting Nubia and Ethiopia— to modern day Africa especially in the South of Sahara is a challenge. The author will thus engage to a reflective definition of Africa due to the polemic and divergent ideas identified to the terminology. However the crux of the matter is that there is a perennial need for current African Christianity to explore their past heritage from the Northern part of the continent. This task is neither without challenges
In a nutshell, one could say that this book’s has the merit to help discover that Christianity is not a ‘white man religion’ imported to Africa as many activists promoters of African traditional religions tend to portray it nowadays. The book helps to appreciate and acknowledge the African contribution to the emergence of Christianity. At the same time it throws challenges to Church historians (especially those interested in African studies) to dig deeply into the overlooked Christian heritage of diverse parts of the African continent.
Joseph Healey, and Donald Sybertz, « Research Methodology Used in Collecting and Interpreting African Oral Literature » in Towards An African Narrative Theology, Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 1996, p. 43-46. A Review by Agyapong Felix Nana Kwame
The authors of the Book – Joseph Healy, MM and Donald Sybertz, MM, are both American Maryknoll Missionary priests who have worked in East Africa for many years.
The book explores the cultural riches of African oral literature such as proverbs, sayings, and stories to help the African person to look at the beauty of God’s creation and through it to see the saving message of Christ revealing itself to him/her. Regarding the theme under review, “Research Methodology Used in Collecting and Interpreting African Oral Literature,” the authors follow the scientific and precise research methodology for collecting, analysing, interpreting and applying the different types of African oral literature, particularly Sukuma proverbs. The Sukuma are a Bantu ethnic group from the south-eastern African Great Lakes region. They are the largest ethnic group in Tanzania. Sukuma means “North” and refers to “people of the north.” Notably, their (Sukuma Research Committe) description of the method used in researching Sukuma proverbs is applicable to any type of African oral literature and oral communication (story, myth, song) and to any African language. Using Sukuma proverbs as a paradigm, the researchers of the Sukuma Research Committee describe seven steps taken in researching African oral literature.
The first is entitled Original Sukuma Proverb: Here, the authors stress that ample time must be spent by researchers to get exact oral and written text of the original Sukuma proverbs including various variants and translated into other languages with both an exact literal translations and a “meaning translation.” The second step is Context including the history, meaning and use of the proverb: This part emphasizes the importance of understanding and using African proverbs in their social and cultural contexts. The third step is Theme of the proverb: The authors assert that further research should lead to choosing a theme for the Christian interpretation and religious use of the proverb, such as: thanksgiving, togetherness etc. The fourth step is Similar African Proverb: At this point, different African languages are studied to find other proverbs that resemble the theme of the original Sukuma proverb and that are similar to the verbal or linguistic pattern of the original Sukuma Proverb. This is because proverb clusters are very important as many proverbs with same theme or value found in different languages and over wide geographical area may strengthen the conclusion that this theme is basic to the African worldview. The fifth step is Biblical parallels and connections: Here, the authors stress that there is a striking similarity in the purpose and use of proverbs in the Africa context to some biblical passages. For example, a Fipe (Tanzania) proverb says, “God’s rain falls even on the witch” whiles Matt. 5:45 says, “Your Father in heaven sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” The sixth step is Religious teaching: Here, the proverb and its parallel biblical text together help to teach the meaning of Christian truths, believes and values. The seventh and last step is Suggestions for use in religious education: As a help to pastoral evangelization, the research team gives concrete suggestions on how to use Sukuma proverbs (and any other type of African oral literature) in religious teaching, such as homilies, adult catechumenate etc.
The interesting thing about this section of the book is the fact that it is the basic research methodology that was used to explore the African Oral Literature that has been used to write an “African Narrative Theology” in the area of African theology of Inculturation. Particularly striking is the fact that this research methodology is very comprehensive and practical for all students who would wish to undertake any research work in any field of African studies (history, theology, philosophy, anthropology etc.) using African oral literature or sources.
Paul Jenkins, “The Roots of African Church History: Some Polemic Thoughts,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 10, no. 2 (April 1, 1986): 67–71. A Review by Jamito Paulino
The author wishes to see the grassroots engagement with, and experience of, the Christian faith and its institutions given the central place it deserves in African Church history. He understands that the key unit in African church history is, actually, neither confession, nor state, nor church organization, but a traditional cultural or political grouping. Such unit consists in an ecumenical history of the reception of the Christian impulse understood in each traditional cultural and political group in the continent. He suggests speaking about the history of Christianity within each tribe for local church history needs to be worked through at each level of traditional identity, to obtain a properly-rounded picture of what has taken place.
Up to date, studies show how much Christians continue to view the world with traditional perceptions. In many Christian areas, traditional cosmologies have not been abolished among them. Instead, Christ has shouldered his way into them and to an uncertain and yet-to-be ascertain degree has altered the way people viewed them and seek spiritual help. In these societies, traditional social structures and traditional ways of organizing communal life have not been abolished, but, they have been developed locally as to acceptable limits of Christian behavior from the point of view of the local holders of Christian authority.
The author reflects replacement of traditional structures and traditional ways of organizing communal life being theoretically possible only if missionary form of organization could have replaced traditional ones. Nevertheless, he notices that traditional language has not died away, and traditional concepts, enshrined in indigenous vocabularies must still be strongly influential in defining people’s understanding of the field of religion and the nature of the Christian faith.
If these traditions are still influential, it is an assumption demanding that African people had to be taught how to phrase their questions and formulate their problems if they were to become properly Christian answers, for the questions and problems posed in Christian practice in Africa will be formulated in traditional terms. As a way forward, the author suggests a free dialogue (that is already taking place) between questions and problems as formulated in the different traditional cultures, and the answers and solutions latent in the Christian message.
Black African cultures have their indigenous form of archive and historiography, oral tradition. The academic world is in terms of this discussion, the center, possessing through its relationship to publication and teaching enormous influence, and the local Christian community is the periphery. Hence, a better process of dynamic integration between the two is encouraged as an opportunity to orient theological education to the real rather than the perceived. This should be taken delicately as it can open the way to a devaluation of the local dialogue. If traditional and political groupings are a decisive unit in African church history, then there are hundreds of African church histories the academics know exist, without having more than a vague idea of their probable contents.
Therefore, the author acknowledging that we cannot have too much documentation of grassroots Christian belief and practice in Africa, he advocates promoting care for the preservation of what local church documentation exists, in all its forms, encouraging conversations that have to be minuted or recorded about local church history, problems in the translation of biblical ideas, the significance of biblical stories and sayings in local patters of belief and practice, the way traditional cultural forms are, or could be, used in church life and teaching (songs, proverbs, and the texts of any hymns composed locally).
Finally, developing archives with this kind of material means “going to the people” in the sense that academics, church leaders, teachers of the church history, and students in their classes must promote such conversations in the spirit of learning what the village people already know. He suggests that it should not only be in seminaries and university departments of religion that a perceived rather than a real rural situation can be the subject for discussion, hence, giving Christian faith and its institutions the central place it deserves in African church history.
Jean-Marc Ela, My Faith as an African, New York : Mary Knoll, Orbis Books, 1988, 187p. A Review by Okeyo Elkanah Obutu.
What is the book for: this book My Faith as an African, is an academic book for religious studies. It is a theology book in which Ela, has intensively looked at the conflict between culture and faith, the suffering of Africans, the challenges of making western theology a reality lived in Africa. Who am I? Identity crisis forms the centre of the black people, whose story unfolds and revolves in a continent where poverty alone seems to have a bright and prosperous future. Black people whose being unfolds in slavery and moves toward colonial oppressions, unending wars and unstable political systems, people without unity, common language, a plausible religious practice; just termed as pagans, the home of gross mismanagement of resources and economic regression. To talk of any hope is a lie. What can Christianity do to restore the lost dignity, justice, peace and respect of the black people? Ela recognizes the efforts of the Christian faith but still there is much more to be done. This book addresses the tension between Christian faith and African cultural practices, the beginning and the state of Christianity in Africa.
Ela being a theologian, academician, sociologist and writer, he analyses the state and impact of Christian faith among the poor and struggling Black People in Cameroon and the entire continent of Africa. He tries to expose the reality of excessive exploitations, poverty and oppression of Africans who have been robbed of their culture and even human identity. Thus, reawakening the need of the western theologians to recognize and take time to study and understand the African soul, the symbols and the treasures impeded in the African traditional culture. Hence, advocating for the indigenization and Africanization of Christian faith so as to make this faith an act of liberating the poor.
The author, Jean-Marc Ela an academician, sociologist, researcher and a theologian. He has written many other books in addition to this one, from which we clearly see that he is a critical writer. Being born Africa, he has tried to reflect more about different theologies in Africa that have failed convert Africans to be authentic Christians. That is why he has proposed a unique kind of liberating theology “The Theology Under the Tree”
The Writer’s remarks: most important, the write recognises the great impact of Christian Faith in the Continent of Africa. He acknowledges the spiritual mission and vision of the Earlier missionaries whose aim was to Christianise the pagan black people. But he recognises that the Christian faith in its beginnings felt into the trap of structuralism and hierarch, which used the language of the authorities of the time, this made this faith to appear as seclusive. Thus, it did not speak the language of the marginalized, poor, and literate black people. This contributed to a great tension between the indigenous cultures and Christian faith. Thus, the author’s analysis of the situations tends towards a theology of confrontation where a Christian theology can recognize good elements of the African cultures and become truly human by promoting the dignity and respect of black people.
Also, Ela looks forward to a theology which recognizes that all people are created by one Divine Being, God the Creator. in connection with concerns for information and training around questions of History of Religion. Thus, this book is not limited only to theologians and Africans, but to the religions and humanity. In order to learn how to be open to live with others in a mult-cultural world without disrespecting or undermining others on the line of skin colour, race, tribe, culture, place of origin or religion.
Finally, it is clear that in the identity crisis of the Africans both in their social living and spiritual welfare, the Author of this book, My Faith as an African, Ela has highlighted significant points inf taken seriously, then we can gladly solve the tension that exists between cultural practices and faith among black people. For instance, Ela propagate the theology of liberation but not the same as that of America or South African. But the one embracing “The Theology Under the Tree” which will face the challenges of African and create an environment where black people can live their faith as brothers and sister. Therefore, I recommend this book for others to read it because it tends to give a better and genuine picture of the poor and struggling Africans unlike the falsified description of the black people as given by the earlier anthropologists and Missionaries. Above all this, book propagate for the decentralization of Christian Faith, so that it can allow inculturation and making faith part of the black people’s daily living. This can only be achieved if Christian faith becomes a living witness of Christ’s live; the theology of liberating the poor. Thus, this book is quite relevant to our course, because it helps us to understand the beginnings and the state of Christian Faith in Africa.
Wole Soyinka, Aké, The Years of Childhood, UK-US : Rex Collings – Random House, 1981. A Review by Koudzo Sedem AGBLEKPE.
Wole Soyinka is an internationally acclaimed playwright, poet, novelist, and critic, who served as professor of comparative literature at the University of Ife, Nigeria, until forced to flee the country during the regime of General Abacha in the 1990s. His books published in the U.S. include his Collected Plays and the memoir The Man Died: Prison Notes. Soyinka became the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.
Aké The Years of Childhood gives us the story of Soyinka’s boyhood before and during World War II in a Yoruba village in western Nigeria called Aké. A relentlessly curious child who loved books and getting into trouble, Soyinka grew up on a parsonage compound, raised by Christian parents and by a grandfather who introduced him to Yoruba spiritual traditions. His vivid evocation of the colourful sights, sounds, and aromas of the world that shaped him is both lyrically beautiful and laced with humour and the sheer delight of a child’s-eye view. A classic of African autobiography, Aké is also a transcendently timeless portrait of the mysteries of childhood.
In Ake, Wole Soyinka tells of his growing up in West Africa in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Many of us have spent some part of our lives in rural Africa and can relate with some of the tales and lifestyle. There is the mixture of traditional beliefs and Christianity that characterize religion in Africa even to this day. This is the first volume of the author’s memoirs, devoted to his childhood, before he left for the High School of the whites. He tenderly evokes his younger years, between his father, nicknamed Essay, school principal, and passionate about books, and his mother, Christian Savage, merchant, and strong personality. There are his brothers and sisters, his school friends, all the adults, who frequent the house of this notable who is his father. There is the Catholic mission in which he grew up, his father’s school. The garden and its rose bushes to which Essay cares more than anything and which his son takes care to maintain. The games, the stupidities of the children, the fruits of the orchard, and sometimes the punishments, and also the great sorrows, like the death of a little sister on the day of her first birthday.
Between the African traditions, of which the grandparents are the guarantors, and also the spirits, good and bad, which always haunt the places, and the Christian faith of his mother, and the books of his father, Wolé Soyinka evokes a very childhood. Happy and very rich, even if like all children, he wanted to run away from home at times.
The end of this first volume announces the others to come, the departure for high school, and also the changes in Africa, with for example the formation of the Women’s Group, which his mother leads, which begins to demand the abolition of the tax. But this is only the last part of the book; most of it evokes the world of childhood.
A very intelligent young African boy, who dreamed from an early age, only of going to school and learning all he could. Unfortunately for him, he was above all an unrepentant dreamer and blunderer, who lived in a small village, named Aké in Nigeria.
This little boy is called Wole. He lives with his father Essay, a school principal and passionate about gardening, his mother Eniola, a merchant with a lively faith, nicknamed “Wild Christian”, as well as his many brothers and sisters. The young Wole who has a lively mind and eager to readings, tells us in many details, his youth, with everything he can understand from his young age. ‘‘I didn’t yet know how to climb the ladder on my own, but I already knew where it was. Just hearing the movement of hurried footsteps, I knew where to go whenever the sound of an event reached Aké’s house.’’
The author is content to tell us his memories, one after the other, one after the other, as if piled up, without real common thread, one anecdote after another, without nostalgia, but as seen by a young person. boy, with his share of incomprehension, mystery, tenderness, humour, violence, emotions, traditions, modernity.
Ake is a non-fiction literary narrative and commentary which again beyond Soyinka’s childhood experience, is a philosophical and literary appreciation of the beauty (aesthetics) of raw traditional environment and natural language in the epistemological metaphysical, ethical and ontological nuances. Moreover, much deep sited in this vanguard philosophical anthropology are extant theories of a canon of African literature in terms of Theistic Humanism which constitute virtually the sublime and Africanity of an African literature. Moreover, it illustrates that the forces of change (and the historical) need not mobilise narrative identity in the same unfortunate direction of previous and current generations. Absolute space is a psychic reality that may be rescued anytime from abstraction, a traumatic fate suffered when all the certainties of the religious, political, and historical are thought to have been exhausted. In summation, when the archetypes of absolute space are rediscovered again in the collective unconscious, it will conjure a revival of childhood reveries and post-conscious sensibilities in the creative and practical life of the adult, and ideally, his community.
Farid Esack, The Qu’ran. A User’s Guide, Oxford : Oneworld Publications, 2005, 225p. A Review by Adrian Mutandwa.
Farid Esack is a South African Muslim Scholar. He is focused on Islamic studies and is an alumnus of Birmingham University. He is the author of the book The Qu’ran: A User’s Guide. The book is a monograph that is solely focused on the Qu’ran as its subject matter. This book is an introductory text on the Qu’ran. It is solely focused on the subject of the Qu’ran. About the type of work the book is, Esack claims, “While it is essentially a descriptive work, I will not make any unsustainable claims of ‘disinterestedness’.” Having described clearly the different ways of approaching the Qu’ran in a scholarly manner, the author goes on to delineate the way of approaching the Qu’ran that is employed in his text. Esack asserts the acute lack of quality books on the Qu’ran. He especially bemoans the difficulty of producing a disinterested examination of a religious text by an adherent of the religion and the difficulty of obtaining good material for producing a text on the Qu’ran for one who is not a Muslim, hence there is difficulty to find books which deal with the Qu’ran as the subject matter and are not written with a religious bias. This problem is the same for all religious texts held to be scripture. While agreeing to the impossibility of disinterestedness, especially in his case, Esack makes an effort to at least provide the information he feels is lacking in the critical and open study of the Qu’ran as an independent text. The author does not specify which part of academic discipline his book belongs to, but judging by its contents and structure, the book falls under the scope of Fundamental Qu’ranic Studies or generally Introductory Islamic Studies. The book gives a history of the Qu’ran, the structure, and the contents of the Qu’ran. In the process, the author produces a quality work that is drawn from a masterful synthesis of the above-mentioned aspects of the Qu’ran. Given the nature of the text, this book is meant for a general audience, it is meant for anyone who is seeking to discover the Qu’ran and given the simplicity of the text, it is a very good introductory text for beginning a serious study of the Qu’ran. Lastly, the book certainly provides new insights. Finally, the book presents the Qu’ran as an accessible text, a text that can be studied and an interesting area of study. The book also makes the key assertion that more than a text for study, “…the Qur’an is a difficult book for “strangers”, and indeed for many Muslims who just want to read it, to negotiate. The Qur’an is a book that is engaged – or wrestled with – and chanted rather than just read.” Esack rightly points out that, the Qu’ran is a complex text, one that deserves attention and respect. One must first move from being a stranger to being a friend of the text by immersing oneself in the text and this is the only way to be able to access the text.
Yusufu Turaki, Foundations of African Traditional Religion and Worldview, Nairobi Kenya: Word Alive Publishers limited, 2006. 128p. Review by Ambrose Sikuku Barasa
Yusuf Turaki is a professor of theology and social ethics. He has taught in the seminary in the 1980s. He’s also a research scholar with the research enablement program, he has authored quite a number of books and this is one of his great works.
The book Foundations of African Traditional Religion and Worldview was published in 2006 is an important book written by Yusufu Turaki. The book takes a theological and methodological approach to African traditional religion, and at the same time weaving a framework to guide the study of traditional religions and cultures from a biblical perspective. The book aims to benefit the following categories; secondary school students doing social studies as well as religious studies, it’s also an important book to the church historians both students and lecturers, it’s quite an informative book as far as Religious heritage especially of Africa is concerned.
Foundations of African traditional religion and world view is an academic compilation that focuses on identifying and interpreting the theological , philosophical as well as ethical foundations of the traditional African religion and how the world perceives the traditional religion in Africa. By interpreting and presenting religious and theological themes within the traditional religions of Africa, this book provides a simplified understanding of the traditional Africa and Africans. Yusuf Turaki makes it so easy for anyone across the world to understand the roots of the African belief systems regardless of the part of the world or the culture they come from.
In his book he lays down a step by step analysis contained in 12chapters supported by a collection of a bibliography rich in African religious views as well as its heritage as a culture and how it embraces religion. Some of the keys areas of which I recommend readers to look into are; about his reflections on the meaning of religion in the African context, the theological beliefs, fundamental philosophical beliefs, ethical beliefs, gods, divinities and spirits, how the people communicate with the spiritual world. He also deals in a deeper way with the issue of the acquisition of power, exercise of that power, then lastly talks of the human nature in the dimensions of community, ethics and social status, as well as the meaning of life. This is a very interesting piece of work that I would recommend everyone to have a consideration and read it. Get to experience the rich African heritage as far as the Foundations of Africa Traditional Religion and Worldview is concerned.
Robert Strayer, « Mission History in Africa : New Perspectives on an Encounter », African Studies Review, Apr., 1976, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Apr., 1976), pp. 1-15. A Review by Richard Annobil.
Robert Strayer is an historian and a product of the Ph.D. history program at the University of Wisconsin. His academic writings are mostly centered on historical facts. This article deals particularly with the history of religion in Africa. Its a fine literature for academicians who want to know more about the parallel epoch of mission history and religion in African.
The author focuses on the outcome of a biased colonial history in an attempt to tell the story of Africa and mission; the nationalist perspective of mission Africa which begun in the 1950s and 1960s. The nationalist perspective, intended to look at the missionary presence from two extremes of positivity and negativity. The Nationalist perspective brings on the various encounters after a careful examination of the mission in Africa at the level of symbols, rituals, myths and theology. However, Strayer points out the most relevant aspect of this new perspective as towards African religious studies, an African initiative by all standards. This new perspective capitalizes on the indistinguishable grounds between African religion and Christian concepts. A typical example is the Christian monotheism and the traditional concept of a Supreme Being. It goes without saying that, as this common grounds takes effect, there is this other aspect of religious competition aimed at convincing or trying to solve the problems that the traditional religion could solve. Another concern Strayer puts across is the competitive bawl of contention between the independent churches and the orthodox mission communities and their level of adaptation.
The theme of adaptation within mission communities can be approached from three (3) angles, that is: adaptation may not have been necessary to make Christianity more genuinely African; the second point is the reexamination of the extent to which missionaries encouraged adaptation in African religions and cultural forms; and thirdly, adaptation is one that the African Christians themselves initiates, thus the unconscious adjustment of concepts and practices within the framework of the missionary communities. These mission communities became or at least saw themselves as the cradle of modernity. Strayer introduces a new mission history which goes beyond the nationalist perspective of examining the process of religious encounter in Africa. This refined nationalist perspective establishes the relationship between mission and the politics of colonial societies. This new development saw the mission Africa as another arm of colonial administration and yet a divergent interest between the mission communities and the larger colonial society. It is obvious that where one party predates the other, a conflict of interest is generated. Such conflict of interest is the potential secularism of government policy on educational matters and the missionary role of African interest in culture.
This article maybe a typical source in the further research into the context of religion and Africa. It points out the previous knowledge of the variant ideologies of mission history and research into the socio-political and cultural change which in some view is due to the openness and adaptation of Christianity to African religion. The author addresses with great conviction that mission history has a relevant connection to the general history of Africa and addressing the major question of an African response to missionary intrusion.
Lillian Craig Harris, In Joy and in Sorrow. Travels among Sudanese Christians, Nairobi : Paulines Publications Africa, 1999, 204p. Review by Tiberius Omondi Wendo.
The text review, Lillian Craig Harris ‘ In Joy and in Sorrow’ consist of many parts but the main part is the Church in Sudan and that is ‘Doubts without and Fear within’ she tried to brings out the main problems of Sudanese Society. The book is for the historicans but also for Everyday that are willing and longing to read and do research on the Church in Sudan. Lillian Harris is a reseacher and a histrians who move and travels a lot in sudan and come to be promting the Faith of women who have been challenge with others things that threaten their Faith i the country. The book focus on the following areas ; the Identity Crisis the tragedy of politicesed religion. The problems of racisim, the misery of the displaced, a Crisis of underdevelpoment and the problems facing the Church and later she finishes with the way forward.
This book is quite helpful to beginners in the course Church History. In a summary form, Lillian presents the history and teaching of the Earlier Church Fathers. This book contains a more extensive knowledge arising from the Patristic age and their contribution to the understanding of Christ, until the late church history, the nature and the relationship of Jesus with God the Father. In his great wit, Lillian has skillfully presented the ideas of the most influential church history on the filled of Church History. For instance, traveling among Sudanese Christians and not knowing them very well is something that need to be done.
The character having many of different personality and views of the world. This book aims at showing the life in the Sudan and how the churches came to be in the Sudan. This book is keeping the faith travels with Sudanese women warmly welcome faith in Sudan and Lillian traveled widely to many parts of the country in the collection of history.
Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God in The African Trilogy, London : Heinemann, 1964. A Review by Onyango Peter Otieno.
‘TheArrow of God’ is one of the 15 English literature works authored by the renown Chinua Achebe; a Nigerian author. The book is meant for the English literature scholars, the Igbo people on their traditional life, and the entire world on the historical interaction between African culture with Christianity backed by colonialism.
Achebe uses the old and polygamous man Ezeulu, his main character and an Igbo high priest of the deity Ulu, to speak of Ulu’s role in uniting the six Igbo villages. Ezeulu resides in Umuaro village and is facing rebellion instigated in his village by his enemies Nwaka and Ezidemili (a priest of the personal deity Idemili; incarnated as a python). This enmity is worsened by Oduche, one of Ezeulu’s sons whom he had sent to spy on the Christians only to be converted and influenced into attempting to kill the Idemili python. Ezidemili blames Ezeulu for his son’s abomination yet lacks support to dethrone the Ulu’s highpriest.
Umuaro village is also at war with Okperi village and Ezeulu took a stand against his fellow villagers at the judicial proceedings enforced by Mr. Winterbottom, the colonial master. Ezeulu’s opinions result on his selection as candidate for installation as colonial chief. He rejects the colonialist’s request which makes him an enemy of the white man, the Christian pastor, the natives of his Umuaro village and the six villages under the deity Ulu. Ezeulu the priest of Ulu has erred and for this is punished heavily by everyone for Christianity’s merit.
The Igbo author is lived before, during and after the colonial period within Nigeria, which makes his description of the Igbo in the colonial period as a text proper for historical analysis. The book is a monograph for it focuses on the Igbo tribe. Moreover, tt is fiction mixed with historical facts embedded in the culture thus a text for philologists to dissect and ascertain Igbo people’s level of civilization. Achebe has already given the facts and interconnected them to tell a story, there is only need to locate, with precision its position within already known history.
The book confirms Prof. Mugambi’s claim that Christianity brought decisive division but, again, we cannot use the text to support the idea of total peace within the African cultures, i.e., Ezeulu was rejected by the villages he ought to serve as priest of Ulu. At the end, Ezeulu, the faithful servant, is mad for being punished by Ulu. Another aspect that is worth considering relates to Prof. Piotr’s idea of inclusion of the traditional Polish understanding of the willow tree in Catholicism, in the case of Achebe, the Igbo’s valued yams makes them embrace Christianity whose God saved the first converts’ yams from Ulu’s wrath. Yams overshadowed Christianity’s polemic encounters with the traditional African cultures before Vatican II as depicted by Mr. Goodcoutry’s efforts to kill the sacred python.
This text, disagree’s with William’s claim of Near East and mediteranean region as only source of ancient civilization. William based his claims on absence of physical archeological finds in other regions. African oral traditions, passed from one generation to another, is a different kind of text, with layers which need to be peeled-off, for instance, the text portrays Igbo villages’ well established society whose members are aware of their roles.
The Arrow of God is a story employing fictional characters to relay the historical experiences of the author. This text opens up a door in African history and other cultures on the location of historical facts within artistic creations by authors. Achebe tells a part of the story of African interactions with the colonialists at inception through his story. Every reader is given a chance to use Achebe’s eyes to live like a traditional Igbo.
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, 1959. A Review by Asu Paul Eyare.
Things Fall Apart is a novel by Chinua Achebe. It is a historical fiction; it is focused on a particular periods in Nigerian history. The novel takes up the setting of the pre-colonial and colonial period of the Igbo people. The author Chinua Achebe was brought up by his Igbo parents making him an authority in the Igbo tradition and customs as exhibited in this novel. He was born in November, 1930 in the town of Ogidi; Anambra State, in the south-east of Nigeria. He was an outstanding novelist and poet. This novel Things Fall Apart was his first written novel and his most read work. He is noted for his books like; No Longer at Ease, Arrow of the Gods, etc.
However,Things Fall Apart takes up the setting of cultural/religious Igbo community of the mid 1900s. It is an ethnographic survey of the Igbo people, their cultural beliefs and practices in relation to the emergence of an Alien religion (Christianity) brought by the Europeans.
It is written in English which is an indication that its targeted audience are the English speakers. I think this audience involves other Nigerians, Europeans and Westerners. It gives a window to view the Igbo culture from the perspective of the Igbo people; a view which is not obvious to them. Things Fall Apart tells about the progressive socio-political structures; set up by the Igbo people, Nigeria. They emphasised protection of women’s rights and freedom of expression. They thrived without a standing army, police and prisons, until it was destroyed by British invaders. The invaders were in two forms; soldiers who were brutal to the people and then the missionaries who pacified the defeated people by building up schools and health facilities. In this way, the missionaries converted the people into a new religion. This downplayed the traditional systems of worship, thereby making the traditional priests irrelevant.
Okonkwo who is the primary character in this novel returned from exile to witness this new reality of his village. He resisted this alien religion and was arrested alongside with others involved. In this experience, the hunter becomes the hunter; the visitors become the owners of the land. The climax scene in this novel is during the clan’s meeting of which they were accosted and told to stop their meeting by the white men’s messengers. In anger, Okonkwo struck dead one of them with his machete, hoping that his clan’s people would have his back. He was isolated, and then he realised that Things have really Fallen Apart. This realisation forced him to commit suicide by hanging himself. The book ended in tragedy with its own title.
This novel is important for us historians; it invites us to always evaluate the effects of emerging cultures on existing cultures, especially as the world has become a global village. It invites historian to promote the movement of oral history. This gives people the opportunity to tell their own story. It is important for people, those who tell their story. The story of Things Fall Apart is highly receptive to large audience especially the Igbo people of Nigerian because Chinua Achebe is an authority on the story he narrated. As the saying goes ‘until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.’
This novel portrays historiographical significance as it narrates the pre-colonial and colonial era of the Igbo people chronologically. It is important for us as historians to devise a methodology in carrying out researches. This method should be geared towards making our findings authentic and legitimate.
Muraina Monsuru Babatunde, « Oral Tradition as a Reliable Source of Historical Writing: Arguments for and Against and Implications for Historical Writing in Education », Historical Research Letter, Vol.22, 2015, p 5. A Review by Louis Etsey Nanewodo
Muraina Monsuru Babatunde is a lecturer at the Department of Educational Foundations, Guidance and Counselling, at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria.
He wrote this article which focused on the importance of oral tradition as a reliable source of historical writing. In the article, he tries to analyse the arguments for and against oral tradition and its implications for historical writing in education. According to him, oral tradition is a reliable source of historical writing despite a few challenges that it might be having therefore historians need to be patient to go to the root of the oral tradition in order to ensure that the facts collected and gathered are authentic and genuine.
About 50 years ago, some western historians considered African historiography as nothing better than ethno-history or folk history. This opinion draws attention of many anthropologists but not of professional historians due to the assumption that the African continent still lay in the prehistoric period and also lacking writing system, civilization and proper sense of history. But this is a misconception of the African worldview of oral tradition because African historical sources are predominantly oral traditions that were repeated through time as part of knowledge, literature, language and culture of different communities.
This article makes us understand that there has been considerable opposition to the use of oral tradition in historical writing, mostly by many European writers and non-European writers who were trained in Europe. However, it has been noted that such opposition is unjustified because there is no historical source either oral or written that is having no shortcomings or weaknesses. Nevertheless, the use of oral traditions and other non-written sources like oral history-oral evidence, archaeological remains and a host of others have come to stay as reliable sources for the writing of history or the recovery of the history. Additionally, the fact that eminent historians like Alagoa Ebiegberi Joe (A Nigerian historian and educator, who wrote many books which deal with history and folklore and oral tradition of Africa ), Jacob Festus Adeniyi Ajayi, ( Also a Nigerian historian and a member of the Ibadan school, a group of scholars interested in introducing African perspectives to African history and focusing on the internal historical forces that shaped African lives ) and Prof Obaro Ikime, (A historian and Lecturer in History at university of Ibadan ) and others used oral sources or non-written sources to reconstruct African history proofs that oral traditions are good source materials for historical writing. However, the reliability of oral tradition can be better guaranteed through the interdisciplinary approach. The conclusion arrived at through the oral sources could be cross-checked through other available sources like written sources such as anthropology, ethnography, linguistics, geography, sciences and archaeology.
The article is of great interest to the students of the history of religion in Africa because it helps us to understand some of the challenges faced by oral tradition in our world today, hence it contributes greatly to our knowledge as far as the oral tradition is concern by exposing some of the challenges of oral tradition and the importance of oral tradition in historical writing in education.
J. Kwabena Asamoah Gyadu, Contemporary Pentecostal Christianity: Interpretations from an African Context, Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2013, 194p. A Review by Zumetee Puo Joseph Kwaku.
Contemporary Pentecostal Christianity: Interpretations from an African Context is a book written by Dr J. Kwabena Asamoah Gyadu. It was published in 2013 by Regnum Books International, and has 193 pages. Dr. J. K. Aamoh Gyadu is a Ghanaian scholar of African Pentecostalism. He hold a certificate in Pastoral Ministry, BA in Religion and Sociology, MPhil in Religion and PhD in Theology. He is an ordained minister of the Methodist church, Ghana and was elected as Fellow of Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015. He is currently a lecturer at Trinity Theological Seminary and is the Baeta-Grau Professor of African Christianity and Pentecostal/charismatic Theology. Though he has other articles in digital media and digital religion, is known for his writings in African Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity.
In this book, Dr. J. K. Asamoah-Gyadu focused on Christianity in Africa with much attention to Ghana. Most of the book’s chapters focus on the practices found in these churches and the biblical frameworks in which these practices are made meaningful. It also give us the author’s own theological reflections and critiques. He gave several characteristics of the newer Pentecostal churches with their emphasis on prayer, giving, ecstatic worship and expectation of signs of the Spirit. He argues that, despite the leaders of these churches reject traditional African religion, It themes and practices reflect much the spirit and concerns of that of traditional African religion. They touch and addresses deep felt needs in meaningful ways to the people. Therefore is a reason for the rapid spread of contemporary styles of African Pentecostalism.
In general, Asamoah-Gyadu like the strength of their ministries, the breadth of their reach among young people and the constant innovations they seem to experience. However, he is critical of the contemporary versions of what he calls “pneumatic Christianity”. His theological and hermeneutical reflections also come largely from within the Pentecostal traditions. He is much concerned also about the overemphasis on the material benefits of giving tithes and offerings, the degree to which these churches present an expectation of prosperity and the way that people in material difficulty can consequently be assumed to be at fault for their own sufferings. Therefore he is concerned about the theology behind their teachings. So he suggests the theology of the cross, and sees tithes and offerings as part of one’s total worship response to God.
This book therefore gives us an opportunity to go beyond the surface of popular African Pentecostal practice to experience the thinking of contemporary African Pentecostal leaders. It also sample the thinking of an African theologian who is passionate about the tradition but cautious of some of its emphases.
Julius M. Gathogo, 2020. “Intolerance before and after the 1517 Reformation and the Kenyan context: A theo-historical review” STJ, Stellenbosch, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 339-356. A Review by Dogbatse Michael Kofi
Dr. Julius M. Gathogo is an academician, who is currently a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya; and, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa. The article is characterized as a fruit of historical research.
This article seeks to explore the theo-social intolerance in the colonial and post-colonial Kenya, an event which calls to mind other forms of intolerance during and after the 1517 reformation and the persecutions in the early Church. According to the author, in Kenya, theo-social intolerance was evident when both the missionaries and the colonial authorities blocked rooms and prevented dialogue with the local people who practiced the African religion went further to close down the African Instituted Churches and their founded schools. The intolerance also manifests itself through the tensions that are evident among Christians and Muslims, afro-Pentecostals versus mainline Churches and so on. For him as we mark over 500 years of reformation there are obviously some lessons that can inform our theosocial discourses in the 21st century, especially in regard to theo-social tolerance. How can this behavior be avoided in our future socioecclesial discourses? Despite borrowing broadly in order to build the case for religious tolerance, the article has cited the case of St Andrew’s Kabare, an Anglican Mission center that was established in 1910, where Rev. Edmund Crawford demonstrated that dialogue between African culture and the Gospel has a positive impact on the society being evangelized.
The article has demonstrated the theo-historical realities of colonial and post-colonial Kenya. It has borrowed broadly, as a methodology, from the persecution of early Christians to the 1517 reformation, in its bid to understand intolerance. According to the author, there are cases where religious conservatism suppressed democratic ideals. Religious intolerance and its resultant extremism saw the exiling of John Calvin the French lawyer who propounded the reformation ideals. It also saw the grilling of Martin Luther and Huldreich Zwingli. As the three great reformers disliked the extremism of the Anabaptists who wanted more reforms in the church, they were also intolerant to them. Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church.
The article has also appreciated the critical role of the reformers who gallantly sought to reconstruct the Church from within albeit with considerable challenges. For Dr. Julius, in the nature of things, they openly differed with the claim: extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Rather, they propounded their Reformation thesis which challenged the position of the church.
The article is very relevant for the students of the history of religion in Africa since the author, Julius Gathogo seeks to explore theo-historical realities of colonial and post-colonial Kenya and also proposed some concrete ways for moving ahead. This will in effect help us to better comprehend the nature and the way the faith especially Christianity is received.
Francis Nolan, The White Fathers in Colonial Africa (1919-1939), Nairobi : Paulines Publications Africa, 2012, 472p. A Review by Daniel Pio Uwagboe
This book—The White Fathers in Colonial Africa—is for both the academic audiences and the general public who are interested in knowing more about the history of the Church, especially about the impact of the Missionaries of Africa during the colonial period.
The book can be categorized under a number of academic disciplines because of its wide range of contents. First, it is history because it narrates the history of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa during the colonial years of 1919 to 1939. Second, it is political because it talks about colonial Africa. Furthermore, it is geographical and as well anthropological as it offers a ‘good-enough’ setting of Africa and the Africans in colonial Africa.
The author of the book is Francis Nolan. He was born in Burton-on-Trent, England, in 1934. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest in the Society of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) after studies in Britain and the Netherlands in 1958. Francis Nolan holds an MA in Modern History from Oxford, an MA in African Studies from Sussex, and a PhD in History from Cambridge where he did his thesis on “Christianity in Unyamwezi”. After spending several years teaching in seminaries in the United Kingdom and Tanzania, he worked for twenty-four years in rural parishes in Tanzania, he was based in Dar es Salaam and he is now back to the United Kingdom.
In this book, Francis Nolan narrates the story of the missionary order founded in 1868 by Charles Cardinal Lavigerie. The focus of the book is the period between the twentieth century’s two world wars, but Nolan does a commendable job of providing background on the order’s history before this era and then foreshadowing the fate of the order at the end of the colonial period.
The book—The White Fathers in Colonial Africa—is at once a historical and a biographical study. The White Fathers attracted a good many men with a desire to lead and to evangelize. There were too many for Nolan to characterize in any comprehensive fashion, so he organizes his account first, by geographic region and then, through brief biographies of the men chosen to lead the order’s evangelical initiatives. Initially, the White Fathers’ mission stations were heavily concentrated among the Muslims conquered by the French in the Maghreb—Mediterranean Africa (North Africa, especially Algeria and Tunisia) and along Africa’s West Coast. In those areas, the White Fathers tried various strategies aimed at growing Christian communities, but without much success. Perhaps the greatest import of the mission’s presence in these regions was its emergence as a buffer between indigenous peoples and the representatives of the French colonial state.
The order eventually turned to missionizing in the Congo River basin in Central Africa and in the lake regions of East Africa. In these areas their fortunes prospered. Their first mission stations were established only in the 1890s, yet by the 1920s the missionaries were ordaining African priests to serve African Catholic communities. As Nolan discusses in his last chapters, the rapid conversion of Africans to Christianity in Central and East Africa pushed education, especially education of the clergy, to the forefront of mission concerns. It was the success of the White Fathers in solving the problems associated with clerical formation that underlay the success of the order in these regions of Africa.
What justifies the interest of this book in particular for the reflection and the efforts of mutual knowledge led by Tangaza/FSCIRE is the fact that, this book is the history of the Society of Missionaries of Africa (commonly known as the White Fathers) during the colonial years of 1919 to 1939. Except for a single post in Jerusalem, their missionary activities were concentrated within the African Continent.
This history comes alive with personal accounts of the activities of these missionaries during the time of the incursion of European political power and the problems of adjustment created for the colonized people. It is the history of a single missionary society, and it aims at helping us to understand the agents who introduced the Christian faith to the African countries. The primary mission was not to teach a few formulae and baptize the people, rather it was to infuse in the new Christians a deep faith and lifestyle in imitation of Christ.
John S. Mbiti, Introduction to African Religion, London – Portsmouth : Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, 1975. 211p. A Review by Kokuvi Elom ATSOU
The book “Introduction to African Religion” published in 1975 is an important book written by John S. Mbiti that presents the riches of African Religious. It is aimed at pupils in secondary schools who are preparing for the new East African Certificate of Education syllabus on the Religious heritage of Africa. Introduction to African Religion is a useful starting point for both East and West African. This book reveals the realities of our Religions as Africans; this traditional religion that supports to be kept and conserved for African future generation.
Introduction to African Religion is a philosophical, sociological, religious, cultural and anthropological book that deserves much attention particularly for us Africans to get in touch to our ancestral belief. It reflects the African heritage, culture and religion brief African understanding of God and the richness and meanings found in our culture and traditions through the symbols and signs in use. The book has 18 chapters explaining the African heritage, the African religion and the place it is found, the African view of the universe, the rituals and festivals meanings, the African religious objects and places’ meaning, the belief in God and the way people approach God. These are some of the topics we find in this book that we have appreciated much and we may invite others to read and discover what we have forgotten or lost for the total knowledge of our culture and tradition.
How do we remember John Mbiti? He was one of the architects of the curriculum of multiculturalism. He helped to define a whole world of ritual and thought. It is right that he should be honoured and celebrated, for his great work that merits respectful, sympathetic and systematic engagement between religious tradition. It is important to remember how quickly calls for cultural integrity can become engines for nativism and intolerance. John Mbiti conjured up a religious order in which people fit seamlessly into a theological system that governed their thought and dictated their dispositions. Mbiti’s view of African religious life as integrated, whole, and all-embracing made non-conformists seem to be opponents of good order.
Although the author didn’t speak about the whole African countries; culture or tradition of the one that were mentioned as Zaire actual DRC, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and South Africa represent the heritage of African Religion. Introduction to African Religion should be read by everyone in order to understand very well African Religion, Tradition, Culture and Symbols and Signs used in their relationship with God and neighbour.
John S. Mbiti, African Religions & Philosophy, London : Heinemann, 1969.
A Review by Gabriel Chirawu
This book review shows us how Mbiti expresses the theological reflections on the understanding of God from an African viewpoint. He brings the African concept of God and shows some similarities with the Christian Concept. He regarded African Traditional Religion as monotheistic that is to say we uphold one God; this is the same with the Christian God. His major aim is to show a rational relationship of Christianity and African traditional religion. Therefore, this book by Mbiti addressed to Africans is an organized study of the attitudes of mind and belief that have evolved in the many societies of Africa.
In his opening remarks he suggests that Africans are notoriously religious and each people has his own religious system with a set of beliefs and practices. This was a way of responding and showing how Christianity had Christianized Africa, but Africa has not yet Africanized Christianity. According to him the African Church is a Church without a theology, without theologians, and without theological concern. This suggests that Christianity and gospel have to be deeply rooted within the point of African religiosity. Africans since by nature are notoriously religious they should be allowed to practise Christianity in their African way.
The primary concern of African theology according to him is to communicate the gospel to the African people in a manner suitable to African conditions and background. This is done in order to produce a genuine theology that is meaningful to Africa and her people. For this reason he suggested the following sources of African theology, the Bible, the theology of the older churches and the major traditions of Christendom, ATR(s), African philosophy and African religious heritage, as well as the living experience of the church in Africa. These are the pillars on which theological systems of the church in Africa is erected.
A review by NAFTARY KUWONGA OCTAVIAN
Mbiti is a prolific writer. His book, African Religions and Philosophy is a systematic study of the attitudes of mind and beliefs which have evolved in the many societies of Africa. This book provides illumination (light) for readers who have grown up in African society as well as those who belong to non-African societies. It adds a new dimension (direction) to the understanding of the history, beliefs, and life of Africans. It also shows where beliefs are common to various parts of African. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned with African religion, history, philosophy, and anthropology, or general African studies.
The ideal is approached from an African point of view, with the assumption that the concept of time is basic to our understanding of African religious and philosophical issues. Apart from this also Universal religious such as Islam and Christianity are discussed in their African context. The book is very wide for everyone concerned with the fields of religion, philosophy, history, anthropology, and general African studies.
In the introduction toAfrican Religions and Philosophy, Mbiti outlines African beliefs, traditions, and cultures. According to Mbiti, the ontology of an African is embodied in the saying, “Africans are notoriously religious.” African life, cultures, and beliefs exist as an integrated system. In contrast to the Western worldview, where life is dissected and compartmentalized, Mbiti shows the holistic character of African cultures; the unity between religion and life rather than portioning of the two. He goes right into the deep of African life, and spirituality, the pulse, and rhythm of African life.
Some of the achievements of African Religions and Philosophy is that it has established methodological criteria, rules in African theology and philosophy which have enhanced this study today. To the same extent, Mbiti’s affirmation of African heritage as a resource for doing African theology and philosophy would vindicate also African belief.
In my conclusion, African Religion and Philosophy deals almost exclusively with traditional concepts and practices in those societies. Traditional concepts still form the essential background of many African people though obviously, this differs from individual to individual and from place to place. The African traditional religion, culture, and beliefs. This also was the way of understanding traditional religion and modern religion including Christian and Muslim. Through this book of African Religions andPhilosophy Mbiti has emphasized the unity of African religions and philosophy to give an overall picture of their African culture, religions, and beliefs practical. Through Mbiti, the whole world learns and understands African religious practices and beliefs. So, African people find or attribute religious meaning to the whole of existence.
A Review by Denis Festo Njau.
African Religion and Philosophy is an academic book written by John Mbiti who found that Africans are notorious religious through the greatest influences upon the thinking and living of the people in terms of belief, ceremonies, rituals, and religious officiates. Through African thinking and acting you can discern the philosophy behind.
Africans are connected with their departed ancestors through libation and giving food. Writer like Tempels came up with key concept of vital force. It explains everything about African thinking and action.
Individual is immersed in religion starts before birth continues after death. Names of people have religious meanings. He is a religious being and religion is in their whole system. Time is of two dimensional phenomenons long past and present and virtually no future. Future is only extension of the present.Africans has intermediateries. Spiritual world is densely populated with spiritual beings spirits and the living dead. Living dead who is remembered and he is in the state of personal immortality occupies the ontological position between the spirits and men and between God and men. They appear mainly to the older members of their surviving families.
Most Africans worship God in shrines (sacred mountains, fig-trees (baobab), water-fall, and river banks. God is the origin and sustenance of all things. His knowledge is expressed in proverbs.
Man is at the centre of existence. God exists for the sake of man. All things describe man’s environment are deeply religious perceptions. A person shows love to another more in actions than words. So in same way, people experience love of God in concrete acts and blessings.
Africa has main races of the world; notably the Bushmanoid who are found scattered in eastern and southern Africa, Caucasoid people who are found in the extreme southern, north eastern and northern Africa, Mangoloid who are found in Madagascar, Negroid people are found almost every part of continent, Pygmoid people are found in Congo. All live in clusters called tribes under kings. Unfortunately has caused tribalism and racialism as material culture, religious ideas and activities are exchanged when people come together, but no one is converted to other religions.
Africans has ceremonies for initiation from childhood to the active adulthood membership in the community. Initiations prepared them to share in full duties and responsibilities of the community. Marriage and procreation are in unity. Each member must act otherwise is considered as rebel unless is abnormal. Twins and triplets were experienced as heralds of misfortunes. They were killed to protect the rest of the people. They have specialists such as medicine men, rainmakers, kings, mediums diviners, queens, witchcraft, and sorcery.
Africans considered death as inevitable which stands between the world of human beings and world of spirits. There ceremonies connected with burials. Africans treats concepts such as evil, justice, changing man and his problem in relation to tribal solidarity and God.
Radically, changing situations in Africa has happened during colonial period, struggle for independence and post colonial period in which Christianity and Islamic are introduced and deeply rooted in history of Africa continent weakened Africa traditional religions and philosophy. Moreover Africa is awakening to the economic, social, religion, political demands raised by the modern changes.
Laurenti Magesa, What is not sacred. African Spirituality, New-York : Orbis books, 2013, 256p. Review by Festus Terkula Vambe
This book is an academic book. It is a researched work intended to highlight the importance of African spirituality and its influence on African Christians. Laurenti Magesa is an erudite theologian, especially in the area of African theology. He has written different articles and books in this field of study. His research is extensive and he makes compelling arguments concerning African theology.
Magesa is aware that psychology in today’s world has proven that understanding of one’s identity is the most foundational and fundamental means of achieving acceptance and self-appreciation through the understanding of one’s history and a real integration and thus growth. Acceptance is very crucial since it is clear that nothing can really be changed unless it is accepted. Since African spirituality is not a matter of mere belief or assent to doctrines or dogmas but rather an authentic participation in values and in real-life practices in a communal relational manner.
Magesa goes on to demonstrate that it is essential for African spirituality to accept her dark and shadowy history. African spirituality takes into account both the spiritual and moral dimensions; in that morality and spirituality are inseparable and indivisible. For Magesa, the Spirit of Ubuntu is essential for an African to acquire full humanity. However, this spirit must be earned by one’s attitudes and actions and through the observance of customs and traditions and rites and rituals which the community has set. Ubuntu directs how an individual should behave and the practical behavior enables one to achieve full humanity. This view is different from the usual understanding. It presents a critical rendition to the understanding of African spirituality and African theology.
Magesa tries to contextualize theology in the African perspective. The book convincingly shows the roots or foundations of African spirituality in the bits and pieces of the day-to-day life for an African person. The book has two major parts, namely: The Phenomenology of African Spirituality and Conversations: The Contribution of African Spirituality.
This book presents a well-researched understanding of African spirituality and its contribution to African theology, which in turn reveals the world view of the African who is a Christian. This I believe is what Tangaza/FSCIRE, is trying to achieve.
Allan H. Anderson, African Reformation: African Initiated Christianity in the 20th Century, Trenton NJ and Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press, 2002. xvi+282p. Review by Emmanuel SOMIAH.
Allen Anderson is a South African, an insider and prolific writer on African initiated Christianity, particularly in its Pentecostal forms. He was the formal principal of Tshwane Theological College in South Africa, and researcher at the University of South Africa (1988-1995), from where he gained his doctorate in 1992. Since 1995 he has been director of the Research Unit for New Religions and Churches in the School of Historical Studies, University of Birmingham, England.
African Reformation provides an overview of African initiated churches (AICs) in different parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, examining the reasons for the emergence and growth of churches that have resulted from the interaction between Christianity and African pre-Christian religions. It describes the characteristics of different types of churches and the lessons they teach the universal church. Concise histories, teachings, beliefs, and practices of representative churches in different African countries and their significance for world Christianity are examined. Different kinds of AICs are discussed, from the earliest “Ethiopian” and “African” churches that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century to the later, more prolific “prophet-healing” and “spiritual” churches, the main focus, and the most recent “new Pentecostal” or “Charismatic” churches have developed since 1970. The reasons for the emergence, development and growth of AICs in the twentieth century are considered. Much of the book is historical, discussing the ancient Ethiopian church, Kimpa Vita (Dona Beatrice) and the birth of the AIC movement in the Kongo Kingdom, and early movements in west Africa and South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century.
The book is divided into three parts, part onetalk about the context of the book it overviews and terminology and origins and cause. Part two, talks about History where it focuses on the West, Southern, Central, East African churches and also Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and part three, talks about the Lessons, focusing on Religion and Culture, Theology in practice and Reform and Renewal. However, thebook elaborates the significance of the specific churches, for the mission and theology of the church in Africa is considered, including the churches’ innovative adaptations and their attitudes towards older African religious beliefs, their contribution to an “enacted” and contextualized African theology, and finally, the reforming initiatives of AICs and their challenges to the universal church. This contribution is so far-reaching that Anderson considers this to be a reformation of at least the magnitude of the Protestant Reformation in Europe, and one may be excused for concluding that this was perhaps a more profound Reformation than the European one ever was.
Dr J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, African Charismatics: Current Developments Within Independent Indigenous Pentecostalism In Ghana (Studies of Religion in Africa), Leiden-Boston : Brill, 2005, 294p. A Review by Abeifa Naagyie Isaac.
Dr Asamoah-Gyadu is an ordained minister of the Methodist Church Ghana and, in 2015, was elected as a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is currently a lecturer in New Religious Movements and Pentecostal Theology at the Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana. He has published on modern African Christianity.
In his book, Dr Asamoah-Gyadu examines charismatic or Pentecostal revitalization in an African setting. Pentecostalism in Ghana in its modern charismatic form, according to him, has become the observable expression of renewal within ethnic Christianity.
The first part of the chapters provides a critical historical exploration of dominant brands of Ghanaian Christianity. Moreover, it also clearly points out the contribution of the older African initiated churches to local Christianity arguing that, despite a present decline, the African initiated churches have left a long-term theological sign on local Christian expression.
Furthermore, the other part of the chapters and its conclusion deals with the theological analyses of salvation as a transformation and empowerment. Again, it evaluates the importation and centrality of spiritual renewal as a distinct hallmark of Ghanaian Pentecostalism in particular and African Charismatic spirituality in general. Also, it accounts for the rise of the newly independent churches, the charismatic ministries. These have been increasing across the West Africa sub-region since the late 1970s.
The book explores how the emphases of the new Ghanaian charismatics-internationalism, transformation, prosperity, healing and deliverance – provide useful insights into the nature of modern African Pentecostal spirituality.
All the phases of fieldwork in the book involves the following: the examination of relevant church documents and the extraction of information, structured and unstructured interviews, personal observation through visits to prayer meetings, church services, camp meetings and other programs organized by the movements under study.
This book concerning the seminar: Contexts, Sources and critical-historical methods for the research of Religion, seems helpful to look at the collective history, and the religious and theological orientation, of indigenous Pentecostal movements.
Bernard Chweya Nyantino, Representation of memory in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s dreams in a time of war and Wole Soyinka’s ake: the years of childhood, Nairobi : CUEA, 2014, 117p. A Review by Edward Kutin MENSAH
Bernard Chweya Nyantino is a Kenyan writer who holds an MSC Literature in English Bachelor of Education. He is currently the Director and Human Resource manager at Nakuru Elite Education Centre. He has been in the teaching profession for over twenty years in different capacities. This is a research paper, a long essay submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of a Master of Arts degree in literature at the University of Nairobi. This study examines how two writers, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, present their childhood experiences while growing up in colonial Nigeria and Kenya respectively.
The study identifies the importance of how one’s socio-cultural, economic and political background can affect a person or a group of people. The basis of this research was particularly to look into the childhood experiences of the two writers. It makes comparative research on the writers on their memorable past of Soyinka and Ngugi who grew up from privilege and poor background respectively. They used post-colonial theory, formalism theory and the theory of Autobiography as its critical approaches. It addresses the challenges of the difficult time in Africa as a continent and the world at large, as the two writers grew up in the same era but in a different geographical context. Interestingly, all two authors are instrumental in determining their future amidst colonialism, World War II and the struggle for independence.
The article is relevant to our course “Contexts, Sources and critical-historical methods for the research of Religion” in that, the author makes research on one of our presenters, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and this research is relevant because it touches on a theme of memory as a tool for historical research, which was one of the themes for our course. It brings to light what Dr Julius M. Gathogo presented on memory as a relevant tool for historical research that adds real experience to historical data.
John Edward Philips, Writing African History, Rochester, NY : University of Rochester Press, 2005, vii+532p. Review by Danilson Germano da Cruz Lopes
Writing African history is a massive academic work composed by many historians and research specialists guided by Professor John Edward Phillips, the editor of the book. This book can easily be called a manual of historiography to be practiced in the African continent. Among the literature available, it is certainly one of the most interdisciplinary volumes on African historiography. All contributors, in each of their chapters, adopt varied methodologies proper to their disciplines in exploring various aspects of the history of African people, their culture and society.
John Edward Phillips, as in the case of a well-made sandwich, plays the role of a properly baked bread placed before and after the juicy condiment, in the first part of the book with a wonderful introduction and in the fourth part of the book with a brilliant conclusion he explored the meaning of history and historical research adding great value to the content in this book.
In the second part of the book the different authors place a great emphasis in the importance of data and data collection in the attempt of reconstructing the African past. In African History, and indeed in history as a whole, different fields of research can and should be assessed for a more accurate and scientific description of the past, such us: archaeology; linguistics evidence; physical anthropology; botanical data; oral tradition; oral sources; Arabic sources; European documents; and Mission and colonial documents. In the 9 chapters that compose the second part of the book each of these areas is well expanded by experts on the field. What is, perhaps, the most important aspect of this section is the way all these areas come together in an interdisciplinary fashion in order to bring about an accurate reconstruction of the African past. Among all these areas the role of archaeology, linguistics and anthropology in the development of African cannot be ignored as these disciplines provide the needed material for cross examining the data received from other sources, especially oral sources.
In the African context oral sources are key for an accurate history, in the second part of this book 2 chapters are dedicated to oral sources, the main merit of oral tradition is its ability to tell the past of most African societies where the practice of conservation and communication of historical experiences in written forms did not exist until the last couple of centuries. The authors of these two chapters, the historians David Henige and Barbara Cooper, make sure to emphasize that as in any historical source oral tradition has its own restrictions and has to be analysed within the framework of the conditions under which they are made. Methodological limitations of oral traditions should be considered as one of the numerous problems of sources that a qualified historian should be able to deal with in a systematic way.
The third part of this book provide very important understanding into the expertise of history writing, very practical and straightforward guidelines in writing different perspectives of history. The authors on this section uncover diverse characteristics of African history and the challenges of historical the reconstruction in different perspectives like: Social perspective, Economic perspective, Art perspective, Aesthetical perspective, Local perspective, Post-Independent perspective, Geographical perspective, Memory perspective and even Gendered perspective.
This book will unquestionably survive the test of time. The contributors are experts in their respective fields and they mingled their preparation as qualified historians and archivists with personal involvement in creating academic writings on African history and historiography. For our specialization course on contexts, sources and critical historical methods for research of religion this book could easily be presented as a textbook, because it touches the core of our course, which is, interdisciplinary way historical research of religion. Sing regards to this book students will have a glimpse of how different disciplines can come together to reconstruct the past, be it of Africa or of religion.
Barbara M. Cooper, « Oral Sources and the Challenge of African History », in John Edward Philips, Writing African History, University of Rochester Press: Rochester, 2005. A Review by William Kilemi
Barbara M. Cooper is a Professor of History at Rutgers University. She earned her BA at St. John’s College and her PhD at Boston University. Her work explores gender, religion, and family life over the long twentieth century. This book chapter belongs to the second part of the Book Writing African History which focuses on the Sources of Data. Hence it can be very relevant to all researchers in History and particularly on African History.
Before making her contribution to the book, Barbara begins by clarifying that recourse to oral History does not mean lack of documentary sources on African History since this varies with region and period being researched on. She then proceeds to highlight the importance of using a variety of sources in order to capture well History and precisely African History. Our reconstructions of the past derive in part from the ways in which these various sources and methods, when used together, can refine, challenge, inspire, reinforce, or confirm one another. It is however a fact that is also noted in this chapter that there has been a lot of skepticism about the reliability of oral sources, whether traditions or personal narratives in as evidence for Africa’s past. Debates on oral tradition have also been recurring among Africanists and they are systematically outlined in this book chapter. Critiques on use of oral sources for African History is also a major concern in this chapter whereby some of the major ones are; functionalists and Structuralists. A key response to these critics is made by the argument that all oral evidence is essentially poetic and performative and this is what really differentiates it from written sources which are not bound to the sensory experience of the audience in the same manner. Oral interviews are thus pointed as a very vital methodology of research in our contemporary period.
This chapter by Barbara is a great contribution in historical research and really draws a lot of interest too since it points out to an area which is neglected as well less trusted by many researchers; oral sources. Most of our academic research relies heavily on documented sources yet it is a fact that there is a lot of information which is kept in the memories of people and can only be accessed orally and particularly through interviews. In Africa by large, storytelling was a common and trusted method of handing on knowledge and even historical facts from one generation to the next. It is the high time that we went back to the roots and despite the many challenges we may encounter, we can still gain a lot from oral sources. Noteworthy is to realize that there is no single source that is self-sufficient and hence complementarity is key in all our historical researches. I feel we still have a long way to go as far as the use of oral sources is concerned but with efforts made by experts in History like Barbara is a good sign of a fruitful future in this field.
Samuel KIBICHO, God and Revelation in an African Context, Nairobi : Acton Publishers, 2006, 200p. Review by Raymond Joel.
Professor Samuel G. Kibicho in his academic book God and Revelation in the African Context, brings to light crucial aspects in the study of African traditional religion. Accordingly, his remarkable book covers issues such as revelation, history of missionary evangelization in Africa, the link between religious and social life as well as offers some guidelines for fruitful interreligious dialogue.
Generally, this book discusses the relationship between the Gospel, Christian missionary enterprise and African cultural and religious heritage. The author should be credited for his effort of provoking a debate which is very beneficial and has since taken centre stage in the area of comparative study of religions and consequently in interreligious dialogue especially between African traditional religions and other world religions. In chapters one and two, he points out how Europeans perceived themselves as agents sent by God to do their missionary work in Africa and to assist and guide it to what Europeans understands to be its divinely appointed end both cultural-religiously and politically. For that, the Europeans called for the replacement to the right objects, one True God as revealed in Jesus Christ and on right form of worshiping. This replacement raised dualism, which lacks the right theological approach as far as inculturation is concerned.
On the other hand, the author repeatedly asserts that those getting involved in religious dialogue must have the same level of knowledge, experience, expertise and social influence and the vocabulary used must be mutually respectful. All this is to ensure the fruitfulness of such dialogue. Moreover, his argument that Christian missionaries had an erratic approach in the way they viewed African traditional religion is very true and has also been discussed by other thinkers. uprising of the people against the missionaries. In addition, in chapter three, he gives an assessment of how Africans were struggling against the colonialists which led to the raising of some movements for protest, resistance and liberation. Even some chiefs were refusing the missionaries to continue preaching for the reasons that the people were afraid of them taking their country. Thus, the Africans had to put it clear that the missionaries were obviously involved in robbery, both directly and indirectly. As they remarked: there is no difference between missionaries and the settlers (Gutiri muthungu na mubia).
Also, Kibicho proposes a full and pluralistic view of revelation in other religions rather than Christianity alone, he proves that his aim was to show the authenticity of African traditional religion and essential unity among Monotheistic religions. Finally, he also devotes some space to explain how God reveals Himself in the African religion context. This helps him to justify his main idea in the book which is to prove that African traditional religion is an independent religion that deserves recognition and respect.
This book provides a rather perfect discussion on African traditional religion which can be used for extensive study of the same. Also, it provides valuable information for a fruitful interreligious dialogue between African traditional religion and other religions especially Christianity. It also shades more light on the history early missionary evangelization. Ultimately, Kibicho argues that there is also divine revelation in African Traditional Religion in contrast to the claims of Christianity that the fulness of revelation is in Jesus Christ alone.
Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature, and the African World, London : Cambridge University Press, 1976, 168p. Review by Ogbonna Mark Ogudu
Myth, literature and the African World is an outstanding, informative, and critical work that was elegantly authored by a Nigerian playwright and political activist, Wole Soyinka, who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986 – the first black African to have gotten that award- and, as a matter of course, one of the eminent living African intelligentsia.
In this book, as the title aptly portrays, Soyinka splendidly established the bridges of the worlds of myth, ritual, and literature in Africa (in the light of Yoruba mythology and symbolism). In practical terms, he unearthed the African self- apprehension as a cultural entity as well as the distinction evident in its underlying unity of experience and literary form- not neglecting the inescapable fact of division prevalent in western literature. In short, the core of ritual gives drama a pride of place in Soyinka’s critical analysis, even though he did not lose sight of contemporary poetry and fiction.
Reacting to a lack of appreciation of African writing in certain quarters and in a desire to clarify his stand vis-à-vis some literary and ideological concepts, Soyinka presents a ‘defense and illustration’ of African literature. Essentially, the book is an effort to describe the relevance of African culture and philosophy of African creativity, and a confrontation of contemporary euro-centric and western aesthetic standards frequently employed to describe or judge indigenous African creativity.
True, the book tackles a problem that is of great historical significance. In point of fact, it aims at “eliciting the African self- apprehended world in myth and literature” (p. ix). In concrete terms, it examines the essential nature of African gods, the nature of ritual, of drama, Negritude, the evident influences of Christianity and Islam in African writing, and of the social concerns of that literature.
The book posits a profound contribution not only for the reflection and efforts of mutual knowledge led by Tangaza/ FSCIRE, but also to contemporary African literary dialogue and world dramatic theories. Hence, Soyinka rightly opines that his book is “eliciting from history, mythology, and literature for the benefit of both genuine aliens and alienated Africans, a continuing process of self-apprehension whose temporary dislocation appears to have persuaded many of its non-existence or its irrelevance… in contemporary world reality” (p. xi). To be sure, the book is a postulation for collective remembering, a call to the black Africans to rediscover their significance, breaking away from every form of limitation.
It is no gainsaying, however, that there is a lot of heavy reliance on some clusters of words in the book that can put off an average reader. To superadd, Soyinka writes of Yoruba gods as though they were every ones’ gods. And there lies the book’s shortcoming! Nevertheless, the book is Soyinka’s philosophy of African literature at its best. More so, it is an extension of his creative credo, a perfect combination of talent and common sense with the reality of metaphysical essence. On a whole, the book is indeed another milestone in understanding, re-creating, and repositioning African philosophy and religions. Simply put, it is a must-read for the critics and creators of African literature and religions.
Julius M. Gathogo, « A brave one-legged general: The story of Mau Mau General, Kassam Gichimu Njogu », HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies VOL 76, NO 4 (2020), 7p. Review by Elicko Sikanyika Chewe
Dr. Julius M. Gathogo is an academician, who is currently a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya; and, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa. The article is characterized as a fruit of historical research.
In this article he sets out to demonstrate the role of the ‘one-legged devil’ (as the colonialists called Patrick Gichimu Njogu), also called General Kassam. Kassam was one of the pioneer generals of the Mau Mau, a guerrilla movement that operated from the central Kenya forests as they participated in the war of liberation from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. Was Kassam a one-legged general from the word go? From a methodological point of view, the article is partially based on interviews conducted with the general before his death at the age of 89 in 2011. Being an insider, Kassam helped to give an in-depth understanding of the Mau Mau war of independence by relating the role of the Kavirondo people of western Kenya in Mau Mau historiography. It seeks answers to questions such as a) Were they enticed by the colonial government to abandon the idea of the armed struggle as a way of writing off colonialism? b) did the Kavirondo (western Kenya) embrace the theology of non-violence (and pacifism) and eventually left the central Kenya group to battle it alone? c) were the people of western Kenya dissuaded to take part in the struggle by the Christian ‘gospel of love’ that abhorred violence, leading to abandoning their colleagues from central Kenya at the last minute?
From a theoretical point of view, the article is largely informed by John Walton’s theory of reluctant rebels. Walton argues that rebels are always incited by the leading elites in a society that undergoes war or civil war at any given time in history.
The article contributes to growing knowledge by discussing the Mau-Mau Movement in Kenya’s quest for freedom, from the 1950s to early 1960s, to demonstrate the religious role of armed conflicts in Africa. In this case, General Kassam, a baptized Anglican Christian, whose loyalty to the ancestral pantheons drove him to the quasi-religious war of independence, is the key subject in this article. In this war of independence in Kenya, a seeming conflict between African religion and Christian religion appears as a key emerging issue. The article is of great interest to the students of the history of religion in Africa in that Julius Gathogo uses relevant methods such as to bridge the gap between what is already written and what has been experienced by the people involved in the Mau Mau struggle. Moreover, it is relevant students of the history of religion in Africa because it is a theo-anthropocentric piece of work that deals with God, creation, and inevitable human conflicts all of which have answers before God.
Alberto Melloni (dir.), Vatican II, the complete history, New York : Paulist Press, 2015, 279p. A Review by Sankwe S. John
This book is a work from an earlier work done by many authors. It was directed by Alberto Melloni and translated by Sean 0’Neill and Bret Thomas. The book was published at Paulist press in 2015. The work is developed in 52 short chapters. It contains the history of Vatican II, illustrated with over 300 photographs and illustrations. It includes maps, timelines and tables.
The author begins by discussing the difficulties and idiosycrancies of such a monumental undertakings as this council turned out to be. The historical narrative presents the history of the Church councils and synods through to the chronologies of Vatican II and the events that led up to its convening. Every session is covered with enough detail to provide a good history.
The book shed more lights on the ‘roadmap’ overviews, of for example, the stages of the preparatory period and the progress of the council documents from draft to promulgation, revealing the long and wearisome process involved chapters 7, 9 and 12.The story of the council is presented in 52, mostly brief chapters. Chapter 2 introduces the early councils in the East and in the West, to Vatican I. And chapter 3 draws attention to the remarkable number of synods, councils, assemblies and conferences held by various Christian churches in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Of course, a fair number of these are consecrated to the council itself: its announcement and preparation; the programmatic opening address by John XXIII; the fate of the drafts on the Sources of Revelation and on the Church (to be rejected); the pivotal role of Recent Books 3 the Secretariat for Christian Unity; the developments in theology concerning the bishop (collegiality) and other Christian Churches (ecumenism); the almost Copernican change of attitude towards modernity and society in Gaudium et spes; and so on.
In addition unexpectedly large number of chapters especially chapter 11, 12 and13 is devoted to factual, formed and practical aspects of the council, such as the transformation of St Peter’s into a council hall, the seating plan, the number of participants and where they come from, the council’s regulations, the commissions and their members, residences of the bishops, the various informal groups and the observers and the guests and so on. And the table with the respective numbers of council fathers belonging to various religious orders and congregations reveals that, surprisingly, most numerous were not the Jesuits (51 members) or the Dominicans (36) but the Franciscans (90).
Though the work is called a complete history, the one thing it lacks is a fuller discussion regarding the impact of the council over the last fifty years and how it is understood today. Nevertheless this is a work which is rich information, documents, and illustrations that brings an atmosphere of extraordinary historical moments full of hope for the Church, the world and the humanity at large.