By Hadebe Hadebe
Perhaps one outcome the civilisation mission in the early days of colonialism in Africa, and or before foreign conquest took place, was the development of a new religion which was founded on Christianity and all the facets that were associated with it including language, mannerisms and identities.
The first English missionaries arrived in South Africa somewhere around 1737 with a mandate to penetrate the interior, which means the Christians preceded the state machinery in establishing contact with Africans. Europeans had not seen the Africans in large numbers since they decided to make the Cape of Good Hope their permanent home in 1652.
Not to be outdone, France dispatched its missionaries not as pastors to the Boers of Huguenot descent but as “founders of a mission among the heathens”. The goal of missionaries was to deliver Christianity as a mainboard for civilisation – a highest state of being which will forever remain illusive in the minds of people as heaven itself.
The basis of the first interaction between Europeans and Africans was to “civilise” them; and Christians were tasked with converting “savages” to accepting God and sing gospel.
The earliest tasks for the holy visitors from the civilised continent were to learn the language as quickly as possible in order to preach the word of God, introduce white superiority and rationalise brutality. Once they learned the languages, they were in a powerful position to redesign society through education, dogma, language and, of course, religion.
If diplomacy is other from of war, then Christianity was a form of violence.
The actions of early Europeans had far-reaching impacts on the people itself and how they looked at themselves and their surroundings. Besides education and classism, the translation of the Bible into African languages was on top of the list.
The Bible was written in European languages like French, English and Dutch, so the words and lexicon were foreign to African languages which were mainly unstructured and unsuited for mythology contained in verses and scripts.
A new language had to be developed from scratch and integrated in what people spoke to make things easier to preach, convert them to Christianity and to educate them to accept Western ways.
In all likelihood, as much as 70% of what we regard as African languages was made up. This means that if our ancestors were to wake up today and hear us speak Zulu, Tswana, Xhosa and Venda, they will barely recognise the speak let alone understanding the content of the conversation.
The creation of the “new” language entailed taking one dialect or sub-language and making it a language for everyone, through church and school. Had many people not gone to school or converted to Christianity, the civilisational project would have been a huge disaster. And this would have also made colonisation extremely difficult and a very protracted process.
Imagining the role Christianity, language and education played in recreating African societies comes out clearer when one looks at Christian religion and so-called African belief systems. In the context of civilisation, both Christian religion and so-called African belief systems mean exactly one thing in a sense that they share a lot of similarities, overlaps and complementaries through language and form.
This is likely to disturb many people. But the existence of Nkulunkulu, Modimo or Zimu is a Western missionary concept that came with Christianity. God is equated with ancestors or amadlozi, who in turn are encouraged as a form of angels to match the Christianity belief system. Hence, the “traditional belief system” was encouraged to flourish under colonialism.
My previous articles explored how the traditional belief systems were used to create the white economy and how the economics of amadlozi continues to support Corporate South Africa to this day.
In brief the economics of amadlozi include spending large sums of money buy livestock to be slaughtered during the bogus traditional ceremonies like lobola, weddings, umemulo, ngoma (initiation schools) and funerals. For these ceremonies, fast moving goods like rice, beer, candles, beverages and anything that can be bought at Makro, Shoprite and Boxer are consumed in large quantities.
Even the notion of a sangoma is questionable. Sangomas create a parallel to prophets who have powers to “see” the unseen and who also to “communicate” with amadlozi. Amadlozi are framed in the same mould as angels who link people with Mvelingqangi, another name for God.
Nkulunkulu or Modimo is a highest form of fiction that was used to trap peoples in the colonized world to believe in Christianity.
Mind you, these are the same people who described as having “no soul” and who required extensive civilization to have equal standing as Europeans. When a person’s spirit is cleansed, dead or alive, in church or traditional ceremony he or she “connects” or “transitions” to another state that is usually not known to them. The highest state holds a promise for a better life.
What has happened is that this civilising project does not have an end date. These people often get promised “heaven” (amathamsanqa and wealth) which will be delivered via Modimo and or his troops of amadlozi.
People forever wait in churches or emsamo and carry bibles or snuff in their hands – they are prepared to sacrifice goats (umsebenzi) and money (tithes in church).
They hope that heaven and good luck will come their way.
At that time, those who came to civilize them perpetually solidify their political positions and strengthen their material conditions. If Christianity or these belief systems were so noble, then why are the people involved as civilisational objects (lab rats) at the bottom of everything?
Religion and belief systems atoned for violence and dispossession that took place.
Again, those who were maimed and robbed wealth were forever reminded “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.
Forgiveness is also a path to salvation on your way to heaven. Those who had accepted God met violence and barbarism from the oppressor with forgiveness: Thou shall not kill! God who is portrayed as a chief of all ancestors will reward you someday for restraint.
What most people aren’t aware of is that “christianisation” of an African was perfected in Latin America where Catholic faith was blended with belief systems of indigenous peoples to create a new form of Christianity.
It is no mistake that the Catholic Church claims to have largest following in places like Mexico and Brazil.
Anyone who will ever get a chance to visit one of the biggest cathedrals in the world located in Mexico City <<Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos>> will realise that the church service is unlike any other.
Mexico has a patron saint, known as the ‘La Virgen de Guadalupe’ (the Virgin of Guadalupe). She is depicted as a darker-skinned version of the Virgin Mary, with more Mexican features.
In the Mexican practice of Catholicism, the Virgin of Guadalupe, akin to amadlozi and angels, serves the role as the appropriate messenger through the native Aztec language, and means for reaching God.
The man claimed to have seen Virgin of Guadalupe was canonised by the Catholic Church in 2002 as the only indigenous saint. European madness in the world continues unhindered, and religion still serves the good purpose of old: crippling the mind of the oppressed.
Like in African settings, the role of the Catholic Church in Spanish brutal colonization of Mexico’s Indigenous peoples in the 16th century remains hidden. Today, the largest landowner in Southern Africa is the church, and the question is how did it acquire so much land under conditions of oppression and violence?
Amadlozi are infused with Jesus Christ, Abraham and disciples as one thing.
Modimo and amadlozi are positioned as substitutes or complementaries in a belief system that is neither Christian nor animist. Sangomas and prophets are delusional as their followers.
Amadlozi belief systems and Christianity (angels) are one and the same in terms of the civilization project: they lay good foundations for free-market economic systems.
Fiction is central to the political, religious and economic realities of the civilised.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and not of Jambo Africa Online. Hadebe Hadebe is available on email@example.com