Germany began levying head taxes in , and relied heavily on forced labor to build roads and accomplish various other tasks. In , Carl Peters ordered villages to grow cotton as a cash crop for export. Each village was charged with producing a quota of cotton. The headmen of the village were left in charge of overseeing the production, which set them against the rest of the population. The German policies were not only unpopular, as they had serious effects on the lives of the natives. The social fabric of society was being changed rapidly.
The social roles of men and women were being changed to face the needs of the communities. Since men were forced away from their homes to work, women were forced to assume some of the traditional male roles. Also, the fact that men were away strained the resources of the village and the people's ability to deal with their environment and remain self-sufficient. There was thus a lot of animosity against the government at this period.
In , a drought threatened the region. All that, as well as opposition to the government's agricultural and labor policies, led to open rebellion against the Germans in July. The insurgents turned to magic to drive out the German colonizers and used it as a unifying force in the rebellion. A spirit medium named Kinjikitile Ngwale claimed to be possessed by a snake spirit called Hongo.
German anthropologists recorded that he gave his followers war medicine that would turn German bullets into water. This "war medicine" was in fact water maji in Kiswahili mixed with castor oil and millet seeds. The followers of Bokero's movement were poorly armed with spears and arrows , sometimes poisoned.
Initially, they attacked small outposts and damaged cotton plants. On 31 July , Matumbi tribesmen marched on Samanga and destroyed the cotton crop as well as a trading post. Kinjikitile was arrested and hanged for treason. Before his execution, he declared that he had spread the medicine of the rebellion throughout the region. Throughout August the rebels moved from the Matumbi Hills in the southern part of what is now Tanzania and attacked German garrisons throughout the colony.
The attack on Ifakara, on 16 August, destroyed the small German garrison and opened the way to the key fortification at Mahenge. Though the southern garrison was quite small there were but European and native soldiers in the entire area , their fortifications and modern weapons gave them an advantage. At Mahenge, several thousand Maji Maji warriors led by another spirit medium, not Bokero marched on the German cantonment, which was defended by Lieutenant Theodor von Hassel with sixty native soldiers, a few hundred loyal tribesmen, and two machine guns.
The first attack was met with gunfire from m; the tribesmen stood firm for about fifteen minutes, then they broke and retreated. After the first attack, a second column of 1, men advanced from the east. Some of these attackers were able to get within three paces of the firing line before they were killed. While this was the apex of the uprising, the Ngoni people decided to join in the revolt with a force of 5, The Muslim Gwangara Ngoni were relatively recent arrivals in the region, descendants of a remnant of the Ndwandwe confederation defeated by the Zulus in other Ngoni states were formed in Malawi, Zambia, and north-central Tanzania.
German troops, armed with machine guns, departed from Mahenge to the Ngoni camp, which they attacked on 21 October.
The Ngoni soldiers retreated, throwing away their bottles of war medicine and crying, "The maji is a lie! Kaiser Wilhelm immediately ordered two cruisers with their Marine complements to the troubled colony. Occasionally, one will nod at the importance of revivalism or evangelical-styled rhetoric in motivating union members, but for the most part sacred life is not closely investigated. Not so in the case of Jared Roll, who, as the title of his book suggests, places the role of faith at the center of his story of American workers.
In Spirit of Rebellion , Roll chronicles the struggles and successes of black and white agricultural workers who poured into the Bootheel region of southern Missouri during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Drawn by lusty promises of rich soil, cheap land, and favorable rental terms, landless families from across the South flocked to the area seeking to build a new life. Poor whites sought the chance to own their own land; poor blacks did too, but also to escape the choking hold of Jim Crow laws and customs. Their numbers would eventually top ,, making Bootheel an important experiment in biracial worker cooperation.
Members of both races found common cause in a powerful labor movement that secured significant gains from local planters and the federal government. Organizing under the umbrella of, most notably, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, they successfully "rejected the rising tenancy, expensive credit, and political dispossession that dogged rural southerners following the collapse of Populism in the late s" p.
During the Great Depression, they turned to petitions, political pressure, and strikes and protests to wring a series of important concessions from the Farm Security Administration, including loans, small grants, and funds for small cooperative associations and group homes on government land leased to poor families. This is no story of unchecked worker success, however. By the end of World War II, most Bootheelers were rapidly descending into the ranks of wage laborers, victims of the steady increase in agricultural mechanization and shifting federal policy favoring the elimination of tenant farming and sharecropping.
What allowed black and whites to join together in Bootheel? They shared an "agrarian cosmology" that "drew upon an abiding sense of moral justice inspired by democratic religious fellowship and fired by rebellious revival" p. This cosmology promoted the "sacred right" of small producers to enjoy "independent livelihoods on the land that they worked" p.
It is important, however, to note that the question of whether these rebellions were driven by religious or non-religious factors is due to attempts to separate the sacred from the profane as Eliade and Durkheim did. But as already observed, such a separation is impossible in African traditional worldviews.
It is from this perspective that Africans judged colonial rule- it simultaneously threatened both the sacred and the profane of the African world. Land Ethics - Ancestral Commons. Millions of Africans shared the Watchtower movement' s position on the restoration of ancestral lands to lawful owners.
Anti-slave trade campaigner Thomas F. Buxton 66 made a very critical observation about how Africans related to their ancestral lands-when they were captured or sold into slavery, ' their strong attachment to their families and lands are apparent. They refuse to stir, some clinging to trees with all their strength. To Africans, the European concept of land as a commodity was foreign since land was a sacred identity and cultural symbol which could not be sold.
In fact, what Troisi says about the - Santal rebellion against British rule in colonial India applies to revolts in Africa:. Economic factors could have contributed to the uprising but their attachment to the land provided also an emotional basis without which the rebellion might not have taken place. Here it is worth noting that for [Africans], as also for most tribals, land provides not only economic security but also a powerful link with one's ancestors.
In fact no land is taken possession of unless the spirits first approve of it. Though the demands of the Santals preceding the Rebellion were mainly concerned with the improvement of their general economic situation, the question of land had a special significance for them. In , Henry Rowley , who was among the first Church of England missionaries to settle in today's Malawi made a similar observation. Among Africans, he noted, land was a sacred commons-the chief can alienate the land, but common rights stopped him.
Similarly, Rosman and Rubel reached the same conclusion: 'Where land symbolizes the continuity of the social group the clan from mythical times to the present, the land could not be sold for money without destroying the identity of the group itself. In traditional Africa, therefore, no individual claimed total ownership of the land.
Besides, the African 'cosmological dimension', that is, ' worldview assumptions, attitudes to nature and society, and most especially their interrelationships' Eyerman and Jamison 70 was land centered. This cosmological dimension led to critical collective consciousness in colonial Africa, as Africans questioned the legitimacy of the colonial social order-vis a viz their ancestral lands.
It is important to add that in this cosmological dimension, land carries religious overtones. Being the sacred residence of the ancestors, land is a sacred commons that links the living to one another, ancestors, other spiritual forces and ultimately to God. In this regard, land is not only the locus of social interactions, but spiritual too.
Thus, the expulsion of Africans from their ancestral lands, imposed taxes and rapid social change led to further social and religious insecurity. Oberschall writes,. In settler colonies the grievances of Africans were greater to begin with; land had been alienated to European farmers; native reserves were kept in an undeveloped state in order to provide an abundant and cheap source of labor for a white-dominated economy; racial discrimination and segregation everywhere increased as the European community grew in size and [the white minority] could conduct its social life in self-imposed isolation from the African environment.
Although the British government could have addressed this injustice, Oberschall argues, it failed to control ' settlers' for fear of using force on its own ' kith and kin'. This British government's oversight resulted in bitter relations between what Memmi termed 'the colonizer and the colonized'. To negotiate this tension, Africans turned to the defiant nature of traditional religions.
Mwase and Rotberg 28 write, 'Throughout the early s British troops engaged in a succession of military campaigns against those chiefs [one may add mediums] who chose forcibly and, in the end, forlornly to oppose the imposition of British overrule'. While Ransford rightly credits the British Empire 'for ending tribal warfare and stamping out the slave trade Colonialism was another form of slavery, one can safely argue. Unlike the first slavery in which Africans were shipped to work in foreign plantations, colonization turned them into ' hoes' and tools for European settlers.
In their account of the Chilembwe upraising in Malawi, Mwase and Rotberg xi assert that the colonial government-introduced taxes required Africans to pay for the Crown land they occupied, which according to Vyvyan' s 35 Precis of Information Concerning the British Central Africa Protectorate, was 3 shillings per hut Africans tended to have different huts for boys, girls, and wives. Those who could not afford paid in kind by working for Europeans. If an individual had one hut, he would work for White farmers for at least 3 months.
Those who failed to meet this obligation had their huts destroyed and their wives arrested, if it was suspected that their husbands had run away. As noted above, such injustices were part of the wider colonial agenda of ensuring perpetual cheap labor for the European controlled economy. This colonial agenda did not only increase what Misztal 38 terms 'social insecurity', but also created favorable conditions for social revolts.
As Rotberg xiv asserts, 'by rebelling [Africans] sought to reclaim their lost liberty and spiritual freedom'. According to Gusfield , social movements are products of human interactions, with the idea of movement suggesting efforts to achieve change. Gusfield 3 defines a social movement as a group of people with ' socially shared demands for change in some aspect of the social order'. Although social movements are born from anthropological and sociological discontents, a social movement involves beliefs and values, which communities seek to reform or defend in a specific social location.
Because social movements grow with mobilization, they 'are not sporadic acts occurring only once; they take on momentum and growth. They call for response from all those who oppose them and defend the existent order' Gusfield 3. In other words, social movements attempt to resolve real life problems in a specific social context. Gusfield 10 concludes,. Whether they seek means of defense to maintain old habits against the blows of unfortunate changes or align themselves as proponents of new ideas and norms against the past, the partisans of social movements are grappling with problems that have emerged within their lives.
Gusfield' s observation is critical to understand the social context of colonial protests. The introduction of colonialism and Christianity accelerated this crisis-leading to ontological insecurity. To resolve this insecurity, Africans sought answers from the spirit world. In retrospect, the colonization of Africa was a product of another social movement-the nineteenth century missionary movement.
Aside from mobilizing masses to support the missionary cause to ensure the establishment of civilization, Christianity, and commerce on the continent, missionaries played a critical role in the conquest of Africa-hence the four Cs-civilization, Christianity, commerce and conquest. While the missionary goal of establishing Christianity was noble, the entire colonial project sought to bring about major structural and cosmological changes in African communities.
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In other words, colonialism and Christianity were social movements that sought to transform Africa into black 'European' communities. As Fields 96 writes,. Mission Christianity, by deliberate plan, corroded African village life. Its Gospel included such tangibles as Lancashire cotton, cash crops, red-brick houses, Western medicine, tombstones, books, and money. The intangibles pertained not only to Christianity' s transcendent God, but also to individualism, formal schooling, the nuclear family, middle-class values and virtues, skilled trades, and ambition.
All had religious meaning. Christian conversion aimed at a cultural, as well as a religious, conversion. As missionaries were fond of saying, the converted 'set themselves apart'; they ' declared for a completely changed life'. In return, African rebellions were countermovements that sought to resist, oppose, and reverse major changes brought about by colonialism and Christianity Fields ; Wipper 5.
Correspondingly, just as charismatic missionaries like David Livingstone recruited masses into the missionary and colonial movements, traditional charismatic and prophetic leadership utilized cultural tools to mobilize masses into opposing it. Spirit Mediums as Movement Intellectuals. The success of a social movement highly depends on the charismatic leadership capable of mobilizing people into seeing the injustice as well as the 'vision' of the just social order.
While this leadership can come from anywhere, traditional authority is vital to social mobilization. A leader who builds his or her authority on established foundations is likely to mobilize people better than the one whose authority has no traditional history. In the context of colonial protests, spirit mediums' traditional authority, though unrecognized by colonial authorities, was fundamental to the mobilization of people to participate in these revolts.
Besides, the articulation of issues that need confronting to bring about a desired change is fundamental to the success of a social movement Eyerman and Jamison ; Sahedi 6.
This role is played by movement intellectuals, who provide the ideological tools for social mobilization. Aldan Morris in Smith 33 for example, demonstrates how the black clergy provided intellectual resources for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Specifically, they provided the ' leadership, institutionalized charisma, finances, an organized following and an ideological framework through which passive attitudes were transformed into a collective consciousness supportive of collective action'.
The same can be said about spirit mediums-they provided the moral case and the ideological justification for such rebellions. Pena convincingly argues that social movements are effective when movement intellectuals articulate pertinent ideologies as well as point out social injustices that need collective action. How these ideologies resonate with the popular sector has a huge effect on the realization of the movement' s goal. Social mobilization occurs not just because a group believes in a cause, but also because a group has a strong ideology Pena ; Swidler Persuasive ideologies, an organized constituency, and valuable leadership are excellent resources in social activism.
She writes:. Critical to this process are individuals who are able to assess strategies and act accordingly. The motivations to act often comes from a belief that real change can occur only through action I propose that intellectuals and the ideologies they profess can play a greater role in social movements than simply creating beliefs in causes; they often become the underlying reason for network development and constituency overlap.
Besides, movement intellectuals synthesize goals with an ideological message that makes sense to potential social actors. In colonial Africa, spirit mediums played this role-they were the movement intellectuals by default. Supernatural intelligence and wisdom are generally attributed to spirit mediums.
The Bemba and Chishinga people of Zambia speak of mediums in' ganga as abamano or abacenjela the wise ones 8. The Shona also perceive n' angas as capable of kuvheneka to see in darkness -seeing the past, the present and the future. As movement intellectuals-albeit in a traditional sense, mediums articulated issues, and provided a rational explanation to the problems their societies faced as well as proposed solutions to the same.
Through the cosmological interpretations of mediums, traditional religion provided organizational resources such as shared identity, normative motivational systems, and public legitimacy on which to build collective social activism. Traditional religions did not have colonial government's protection, but like mediums, they had community fortification.
To this day, most Africans would honor spirit mediums over government officials and mainline clergy or bishops-something that has made Nigerian Nollyhood movies and charismatic Christian 'prophets' attractive to the African mind. As discussed below, by pointing to droughts, animal sickness, unexplained deaths and many other social calamities, spirit mediums employed traditional beliefs to define colonialism.
Of course, some chiefs could have realized some 'injustice frames' in Lugard's indirect rule, but they were somehow paralyzed when it came to raising cognitive collective liberation. To use Smith's 10 words, chiefs lacked the 'fundamental moral standards against which status quo [could] be judged'. They had fallen prey to the unearned privileges of colonialism, under which their colonial-defined authority was based. As a result, mediums became the legitimate rulers and intellectual authorities to mobilize masses to join the rebellions.
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And since social movements require an ability to harmonize ideologies and activities, traditional religions as well as spirit mediums were the catalysts of collective consciousness. This is because ' religion deals with the sacred and the supernatural; and perhaps, because in some situations, it may have a history or current status as a socially powerful institution.
This authority, legitimacy, and protection can be put to good use for the cause of social-movement activism' Smith But movement mobilization or recruitment needs what Snow terms 'frame alignment'; that is relating issues to people's immediate concerns and needs. Snow rightly notes that frame alignment consists of four parts, which are equally vital-frame bridging, frame amplification, frame extension and frame transformation. Frame bridging is accomplished by creating a relationship between two ideologically similar frames that share a common issue.
Until the issue is bridged, people are not likely to join the movement. For mediums, the social calamities and landlessness were due to the communities' failure to resist colonialism. Secondly, frame amplification focuses on the meaning of events and their connection to one' s immediate life situation.
To Africans, rapid social change, forced taxations, droughts and landlessness amplified the need for change. Thirdly, frame extension deals with extending the movement forum to address the issues of that particular group. For Africans, colonialism meant loss of cultural identity, which only collective action could remedy. Finally, frame transformation occurs when some of the key ideas of the framework are redefined to meet the primary goal of the social movement. To many Africans, their ancestors would aid their wars against the settlers, as well as restore the glory of old days-as the following case shows.
In this article, I argue that spirit mediums used cultural symbols to recruit masses into a social movement that sought to oppose colonial rule as well as to reverse rapid sociocultural and political changes brought about by colonialism. As a social movement, for example, the Chimurenga rebellion was centered on the religious symbol of the Mwari Shona or Mwali Ndebele cult and the ancestor cult 9 , which are the center of the Shona and Ndebele cosmologies.
Usually approached from the shrine at Matonjeni in Matebeleland's Matopo Hills of Zimbabwe, Mwari provides answers to the people s existential questions. A woman medium communicates Mwari's will to the people 'through the senior tribal ancestors mhondoro , or through his messengers Daneel Importantly, the Deity s presence is usually felt in times of crisis; hence the cult has socio-political overtones.
Between and the Shona and the Ndebele community cultures sought Mwari s help in addressing the colonial crisis they both faced. With the help of their mediums Mukwati among the Ndebeles, and Nehanda and Kaguvi among the Shonas respectfully , the two community cultures sought to reclaim their ancestral lands through violent means.
As Kamudzandu 14 posits,. Determined to fight for their land, religious leaders from both the Ndebele and Shona responded by conducting uprisings against British occupation of Zimbabwe. In both eastern and western Zimbabwe, whites were targeted and, within weeks, about one hundred white families were killed. The response from Rhodes was brutal and furious: he declared war on the indigenous people.
While whites had the advantage of superior weapons, the Shona [and Ndebele] people had bows and arrows, Mwari God , and ancestors on their side. However, the disruptive nature of the Mwari cult was not limited to European settlers. When the Ndebele community culture raided and oppressed the Shona people, Mwari approved of the coming of whites. In that instance, however, Mwari told Lobengula, the King of the Ndebele, ' You are just a little fat man. You are so busy murdering my people that you do not see the white sons of my sister - the ones with shining ears and without knees - approaching from the south' Daneel Ironically, after being disappointed with Mwari 's own white sister's sons, in the late s, the Deity called on both the Shona and the Ndebele to unite and reclaim their ancestral lands with the words:.
These whites are your enemies. They killed your fathers, sent the locusts, caused this disease among the cattle and bewitched the clouds so that we have no rain. Now you will go and kill these white people and drive them out of our father's land and I Mwari will take away the cattle disease and the locusts and send you rain' Daneel Aside from defining Europeans, the dual role of Mwari' s voice is evident. As the embodiment of Mwari, the female voice represents both the Deity as well as the people of Mwari. Phrases such as 'your enemies', 'your fathers', 'we have no rain', and 'our father's land' suggest Mwari's identification with the people's plight through the female medium.
The emphatic ' I Mwari, will take away', as well as 'send you rain', however, point to Mwari's overwhelming authority over the ecological harmony of the land. In line with African cosmologies, it is Mwari and not the ancestors, who control the ecological fertility of the land-hence, 'I Mwari will take away the cattle disease and the locusts and send you rain'.
Since land is the locus of African religions, Mwari pointed to the ecological hardship of the people-droughts, locusts, and cattle diseases. Mwari's words also reminded the people of the Deity's solidarity with their dehumanizing plight. Like the God of the Exodus, Mwari had witnessed the afflictions and suffering of the colonized people and through the mediums, acted ' to deliver them out of the hand of the [Europeans]' Exodus 3: Unlike Israel's God who rescues the Hebrews by driving them out of the land of oppression, Mwari will expel the oppressors Europeans from African lands.
Moreover, Mwari's declaration of the war of Chimurenga also meant that victory was certain. Through the words of mediums, one can safely conclude, the Deity presented what Martin Luther King Jr. Until Africans attended to this divine and sacred call, the ecological harmony of the land will not be restored! As Daneel 32; Kaoma a: rightly observes, the Mwari cult and the mediums such as Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi and the mhondoro spirit of Chaminuka 'played a prominent role in organizing Shona resistance'.
While the issue of the history of gender relations in Shona cosmology is not the focus of this article, it is important to note that just as Mwari's voice is a woman, Mbuya Nehanda was a female medium-suggesting the important role of women in Shona traditional religion, as Nyajeka rightly argues. One would question how Africans expected to win the war without guns.
Yet this question underplays the role of religious beliefs in violent fundamentalist religious-driven social movements such as the Lenshina movement in colonial Zambia, the Chilembwe upraising in colonial Malawi, the Maji Maji in colonial Tanzania, and recently terrorist groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab among many others. Just as the God of the Exodus called on Moses to liberate the people with the shepherd's staff Exodus , Mwari and the ancestors had decreed the war and would provide the means of fighting it. I propose that these convictions motivated both Shonas and Ndebeles to participate in the war to liberate their ancestral lands.
As expected, the rebellion met strong resistance from colonial authorities-leading to many deaths as well as the execution of these mediums.
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Snow's observation about frame alignment deserves highlighting here-social movements can bring diverse groups with different agendas together. Although Ndebeles and Shonas were avowed enemies, in the face of colonial oppression, their need for cultural identity and land unified them. As is the case with other social movements, the political goal of liberation from colonial exploitation and the desire to live peacefully on their ancestral lands unified the two communities in their protest against colonial rule.
The executions of these mediums by colonial authorities turned them into movement icons, martyrs and mhondoro senior tribal ancestors. Like Dr. King in the Civil Rights Movement, their final words would become sacred norms for the future nationalist movement in Zimbabwe. Finally, aside from proving that African traditional religions are at par with other religions in movement building and mobilization, in social movement theory, the first Chimurenga confirms what Smith 1 calls, ' the disruptive, defiant, unruly face of religion.
While colonialists underestimated the power of African religions which settlers and missionaries perceived as backward and superstitious , like other world religions, African religions played and still play a critical role in African politics. Of course, the first Chimurenga failed to reclaim the colonized lands, but it sent a positive message to colonial authorities about the disruptive nature of African religions. Amidst the life-denying oppression; amidst rampant corruption; and amidst human rights abuses in post-colonial Africa, can religion play a disruptive role? The colonial government s execution of these mediums for their roles in the rebellion, and their elevations to national heroes' status in independent Zimbabwe suggest that the colonial and post-colonial governments were wary of the power of spirit mediums in African politics.
Unlike politicians who get their power from the living, mediums are believed to receive their authority from God and the ancestors. Without underplaying the role traditional diviners still play in contemporary African politics in most cases, secretly , I propose that the Church should employ the disruptive role of religion in its attempts to address the social, economic and political issues of the continent.
Every African government in Christian sub-Saharan Africa reveres the Church; hence the Church can mobilize masses to disrupt post-colonial injustices, corruption and other social evils. The Church' s voice, like that of the traditional mediums and biblical prophets, represents God's moral voice on issues of governance, economic justice, and human rights.
Like the Black Church in the U.
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Civil Rights Movement and in the South African Antiapartheid Movement, African theologians and Church leaders ought to mobilize masses against rampant socioeconomic and political injustices that the continent faces. Moreover, the Church should labor to know what God is saying in the face of Africa's abject poverty, corruption and human rights abuses. As Rowan Williams ; Kaoma b: , former Archbishop of Canterbury noted, a 'theologically educated person is someone who has acquired the skill of reading the world, reading and interpreting the world, in the context and framework of Christian belief and Christian worship'.
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