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Burghart Schmidt, Rolf Schulte, eds. Hexenglauben im modernen Afrika/Witchcraft in Modern Africa: Hexen, Hexenverfolgung und magische Vorstellungswelten/Witches, Witch-Hunts and Magical Imaginaries. Hamburg: Dobu Verlag, 2007. 255 pp. EUR 28.80 (paper), ISBN 978-3-934632-15-8.

Reviewed by Harald Freter (Institute of African Affairs, GIGA-Hamburg)
Published on H-Africa (February, 2009)
Commissioned by Mark L. Lilleleht

Multiple Modernities of the Occult in Africa

This volume offers an overview of current scholarly discussions on multiple modernities of occult belief systems in Africa. It is based on revised and extended contributions originally presented during an international conference in Hamburg, held in 2004. It contains thirteen essays--seven written in German and six in English--on various aspects of the subject. Five essays are case studies of occult belief systems in specific countries: Nigeria, Tanzania, Gambia/Senegal/Guinea-Bissau, South Africa, and the Central African Republic.

In the preface, the editors, Burghart Schmidt and Rolf Schulte, claim that during the last two decades globalization and mushrooming religious movements have had an increasing impact on the fabric of occult belief systems in Africa. The analysis of these systems, they argue, requires an interdisciplinary approach, involving not just ethnology or religious studies, but also economics as well as political and cultural science. In two introductory essays, the editors outline the subject and the organization of the book. Witchcraft beliefs, they maintain, should not be understood as outdated exotic phenomenon, restricted to some remote areas of Africa, but as vivid expressions of current social and political conflicts, which, although deeply rooted in Africa's history, are increasingly influenced by transnational social spaces. Therefore, witchcraft violence does not obey monocausal explanations. Single models that are bound to time and society cannot fully explicate the variety of imaginations and beliefs. Only a composite of interpretational patterns taking into account specific political, cultural, and social conditions within African states and groups can lead any further. Hence, they indicate that the empirical base must be widened by case studies.

Michael Schönhuth gives an overview of different theoretical approaches to the analysis of occult belief. He identifies important paradigmatic changes in ethnological research on witchcraft. Since the early 1990s, changing forms and content of witchcraft belief have been considered as Africa’s answer to the requirements of the modern world in the context of increasing globalization. The author maintains that middle-range theories, bridging the gap between grand theories and empirical research, applied to case studies, provide at present the most promising path to better understanding extant occult belief systems.

A general analysis of the renaissance of African modes of thought, as represented by occult belief systems, is given by Dirk Kohnert. He maintains that, hitherto, official approaches, designed to cope with the problems of witchcraft violence in Africa, have been based on Eurocentric views and colonial jurisdiction, legitimized by ill-applied Western social science--notably one-dimensional rational actor models. According to Kohnert, these approaches are inadequate; in fact, they constitute part of the problem itself. African religions could provide a framework for valuable indigenous solutions to actual problems of contemporary life, including the problem of witchcraft violence. Besides, they might, under certain conditions, provide the outside world with new dimensions of philosophic thought and emancipatory action; within the realm of conflict resolution and reconciliation, for example.

In a second contribution, Kohnert presents his results of an empirically based long-term study on the articulation of witchcraft and modes of production among the Nupe in northern Nigeria. He hypothesizes a strong connection between the varying content of witchcraft accusations and the change of modes of production over past generations. Over time, witchcraft accusations among the Nupe served different, even antagonistic, ends. Among the stateless village communities of the Nupe up to the fifteenth century, the Nupe anti-witchcarft cult ndakó gbòyá was apparently used as a means of mobilization and defense against the usurpation of power by invaders. After the latter conquered Nupeland and established a kind of slave-mode of production during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Nupe state used witchcraft accusations first as a method of securing dominance over the communal mode of production, and afterward, when the British colonial power forbade slavery, as means of ruthless expropriation of the peasantry by doling out witchcraft accusations against heavy ransom payments during the annual cleansing tours of the cult. Finally, under the nascent capitalist mode of production of the 1970s, villagers turned their witchcraft accusations against individual accumulation of land and capital. Thus, the political economy of occult belief could highlight the origins of social and political conflicts in a period of societal transition, which remain otherwise undetected. But these hypotheses still remain highly speculative if not backed by further empirical research.

Various phenomena of occult experience in the African context are considered by Erhard Kamphausen. He interrogates two approaches: one, going back to Hegel, is characterized by ignorance, prejudices, and contemptuousness; while the other takes mystic forces and resulting fears seriously. From this, he considers the role of Christian missions and a subsequent shift in African theology, which has, in some instances, led to the integration of witchcraft and possession into the religious systems of independent churches of charismatic-pentecostal origin.

One of the main functions of spiritual agency is resistance to social deviation--such as amassing power and wealth without regard to the needs of the extended family or community--outlined in Johannes Harnischfeger's first essay. He establishes a link between occult belief and state decline in Africa. Since power is hardly regulated anymore in Africa's failed states, it has become unpredictable and seems to be connected to secretive and often invisible dark forces. This evil, then, which is personified in witches and sorcerers, has to be fought by spiritual means. Harnischfeger offers the example of Nigeria--with its unfettered economic growth during the first oil boom and the subsequent disillusion of the marginalized about the benefits of “modernization”--to show that individual experiences of moral and social decay can be expressed in terms of witchcraft or sorcery--two concepts the author is careful to differentiate. 

In his second contribution, Harnischfeger looks at changes in Christianity as practiced in and exported from Africa and Europe. Africans are participating in a global market of magico-religious objects and services. Choices are made individually, pragmatically following the principle of trial and error rather than on the basis of entrenched beliefs. People living in fear about uncontrolled spiritual forces may join religious movements or communities that embark on crusades, exorcisms, or other collective endeavors of confronting evil. African churches have become deeply involved in spiritual warfare. This is, however, not just an African phenomenon, but seems to be part of a global process of re-enchantment. Believers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, who form a majority of today’s church members, are transforming Christianity into a non-European religion, with a heavy emphasis on miracles and demonism. Hence, the author expects a growing influence of African theology in the future.

Walter Bruchhausen examines southeast Tanzania to show how image and practice of reactions to witchcraft adapt to various processes of modernization. The dissolution of traditional political and religious authorities with the introduction of Islam and colonial rule as well as the colonial and postcolonial anti-witchcraft legislation reshaped the response to witchcraft: from an ordeal executed by community leaders via public witch-finding and cleansing by foreign “experts” to a more private and often religious practice of witch-detection, protection, and reconciliation by spirit mediums.

Another regional study by Katrin Pfeifer focuses on the ambiguities of the transfer of European concepts and terms of witchcraft into the African context. She focuses on denotations and concepts of occult belief in the Mandinka language spoken in Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau, and she questions the translation of these concepts into European languages. For example, she suggests translating the Mandinka term buwaa as a “person who is said to be a cannibal of supernatural power and changing appearance” (p. 166). However, whether such translations are likely to reduce Eurocentric prejudices is open to question. But, the author is certainly right in underlining the fact that hardly anybody will dare to discuss openly the existence or nonexistence of such occurrences or creatures, because many people are afraid that discussion itself might attract the spell of buwaa.

Unlike in Europe, one cannot find one-dimensional gender-specific factors in the consideration of witch-hunts in Africa as Schulte points out in his essay on occult forces, witch-hunts, and gender in Africa. Although conflicting gender relations can lead to brutal consequences during times of crisis in Africa, age is another important variable, as are economic, political, and other cultural or social factors. While gender-specific factors played an important role in Europe, there is wide variation in the proportion of male to female witches in Africa. A constant female stereotype of a witch is not to be found. Hence, common feminist approaches to witchcraft and the occult offer only partial solutions.

So-called Muti murders as an example of extreme occult violence are considered by Oliver Becker. The main characteristics of Muti murders are the removal of parts of the body for the production of medicine. Although belonging to a distinct category of crime, these murders are subsumed, together with exorcism and subsequent killing of witches, under the term “witchcraft violence” in the bulk of sociological and anthropological research. The results of Becker's empirical studies show that both these forms of murder must be regarded and treated as related aspects of one and the same problem.

In another case study, Joan Wardrop considers witchcraft accusations and processes in Soweto during the South African transition from apartheid to democracy. Suppressed conflicts from the apartheid era exploded and reflected the rapid political and social change spawned by the transition.

In the concluding essay of the volume, Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers describes the longtime development of water wizards among the Zande in the Central African Republic. Based on field research and archival studies, Grootaers explores the imaginations and experiences of the so-called crocodile men during the period 1950-2000. Again, like Harnischfeger, Grootaers carefully distinguishes between witchcraft as an innate quality and sorcery as an acquired ability. Grootaers’s work shows that witchcraft and sorcery reflect and shape social relations and changes within society; hence, they must be seen and considered as dynamic rather than static phenomena.

Witchcraft in Modern Africa offers a well-balanced overview of current studies of occult belief systems in sub-Saharan Africa, including both theoretical and conceptual considerations as well as empirically based case studies to illustrate the major findings. The inclusion of essays written in German makes it a valuable resource for the German-speaking Africanist community as well.


Doing Theology And Philosophy In The African Context/Faire la Theologie et la Philosophie en Contexte Africain by Luke G. Mlilo, Nathanael Y. Soede (Denktraditionen Im Dialog: Studien Zur Befreiung Und Interkilturalitat: Iko) English/French  essays on doing theology in Africa.

From June 10th to 16th, 2002, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), in collaboration with the Institute of Missiology Missio (MWI), Aachen, Germany, invited some thirty scholars of theology and philosophy from various Tertiary Institutions in Africa to reflect on the subject "Doing Philosophy and Theology – for Whom? Revisiting Philosophical and Theological Teaching in Tertiary Institutions in Africa". The Consultation took place in Kumasi, Ghana, and was part of an intercontinental research project on the reform of philosophical and theological curricula, initiated by the MWI.

The introductory lectures were given by Peter Lwaminda, Marco Moerschbacher and Henry C. Hoeben, s.m.a.

Peter Lwaminda, Secretary General of SECAM, looked upon the message of the African Synod (1994) and its impact on a possible change in Tertiary Institu­tions of Africa. The challenge continues to be that of relevance by finding the way to true Africanness. A thorough and courageous inculturation has to address the precarious situations in which the majority of the African people find themselves today. The programmes, methods and contents of philosophical and theological teaching and research are challenged to address the present situation of Africans.

Marco Moerschbacher (MWI) confronted a reading of the magisterial texts Sapientia christiana (1979) and Ex corde ecclesiae (1990) and their understanding of Catholic Institutions of Higher Learning with some emerging methodological paradigms of contextual theology in Africa.

Henry C. Hoeben presented a historical overview on Catholic Theological Faculties in Africa, starting from the first attempt in Roma (South Africa) in the 1940s up to the six existing Institutions of today (ICAO, Côte d'Ivoire; CIWA, Nigeria; UCAC, Yaoundé; FCK, Kinshasa; CUEA, Kenya; ICM, Madagascar). He also recalled the history of the Association of Catholic Universities and Higher Institutes of Africa and Madagascar (ACUHIAM, also known under the French sigle of ASUNICAM). He pointed out three main challenges for these Institutions: 1) a renewed emphasis on research, publication and scholarly excellence; 2) the deepening of collaboration within the Catholic Church of Africa beyond bounda­ries of language, region and ethnicity; 3) the need to join efforts to support and improve the existing Institutions over against new foundations.

The Conference followed a regional pattern. The participants from Southern Africa were Bishop Patrick Kalilombe, M.Afr. (University of Malawi), Madipoane Masenya (UNISA, South Africa) and Luke Mlilo (St. Joseph's Theo-

logical Institute, South Africa). Kalilombe put some strategical questions on the project of contextualizing the philosophical and theological curricula. He em­phasized the role of the African diocesan bishops and their dependence on Roman instances. – Masenya from the Protestant Open University UNISA mapped out the holistic and outcome-orientated approach in their BTh programme. Following a range of flexible modules, structured in four "tracks" (instead of the seven tradi­tional theological disciplines), UNISA graduates are empowered to assume their responsibilities in both Church and society of their respective context. She suggested that, in continuation of this commitment to a contextual study of theology, burning issues like HIV/AIDS, poverty, unemployment and discrimina-tion against women should be explicitly addressed within the curriculum. – Mlilo gave an evaluation of four Tertiary Institutions in the Southern African region. Even though commitment to Africanization and contextualization is clearly spelled out on the conceptual level, its realization in practice often meets severe obstacles and problems. Stressing the need to overcome European concepts and contents and to strive towards an academic self-determination of the African Tertiary Institutions, M. highlighted some problems of the academic landscape in Africa, such as brain drain, the prevalence of non-African staff members, the in­dividually focused European model of University education, the lack of an insti­tutional co-operation within Africa, the marginalization of Africans due to glob­alization processes, and the shortage of African resource books. In each of these areas of concern, M. forwards concrete suggestions of "possible steps forward", based on two main convictions: The formation of teaching personnel has to become a top priority of the decision-making instances, and Africanness is to be given a key function in philosophy and theology in order to bridge the gap between these disciplines and African culture as lived out by the people.

The contributors from Eastern Africa focused on the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (John Maviiri), Tangaza College (Carmel Powell, FMM) and Hekima College (Eugene Goussikindey, S.J.).

Maviiri presented the various study cycles at CUEA. He called for a more holistic understanding of inculturation, including issues such as poverty, disease, marginalization of women, management of Church and state, peace and justice, forms of neocolonization and the effects of globalization to be addressed by the curricula. To strengthen the need of further Africanization he suggests an "African Studies Department" to be linked up with the existing disciplines. – Carmel Powell, FMM, gave an overview on the Institutes and Programmes of the Tangaza College. Stressing the areas of African contextualization and gender balance, she pleaded for training priests, religious and lay people in view of a "collaborative ministry" which is aware of the contribution of women to Church and society and which strives for a "discipleship of equals". – Goussikindey presented an analysis of the shifts in the curricula at Hekima College in the past twenty years. He held that the challenges brought about through the local situations call for a radical revision of the curricula. Especially the relationship between philosophy and  theology needs to be reconsidered. In view of today's in­terdisciplinary dialogues, the human and social sciences are to be given a promi­nent place in the theological study programmes.

The Central African region was presented by Paulin Poucouta (Theology, Université Catholique de l'Afrique Central UCAC, Yaoundé, Cameroon), Albertine Tshibilondi (Philosophy, also UCAC), Léonard Santedi (Theology, Facultés Catholiques de Kinshasa FCK), and Jean-Chrysostome Akenda (Philosophy, also FCK).

Poucouta presented a model curriculum in Theology, aiming at more Afri­canization. He stressed the key role of creative research and the institutional pre-condition for that research work, such as well equipped libraries and inter-institu­tional co-operation. – Tshibilondi undertook a critical relecture of the philosophi­cal curriculum against the background of globalization and gender balance. She pleaded for an interdisciplinary outlook of philosophy and detected the concrete ambiguity of the role of the African teachers at Tertiary Institutions in Africa which are part and parcel of a whole system of cultural and economic dependency. The teachers have to critically review the theoretical framework of their own formation. – Santedi suggested three methodological steps to be followed by contextual theology: starting from the contextualization (with the Christian community as the key element), decontextualization (confronting this context with Bible and tradition and other sources of cultural and religious memory) and, finally, recontextualization (addressing the people and their expectations). – Akenda looked at the African situation with its various symptoms of crisis, the kind of graduate to be produced by Tertiary Institutions (pedagogical, moral and cultural values) and the tasks of philosophy as a critical and self-critical reflection on humankind. He spelled out this approach in view of requirements of the various courses taught in the philosophical curriculum.

The West African region was represented by Josephat Oguejiofor (Bigard Memorial Seminary, Nigeria), Teresa Okure, SHCJ (Catholic Institute of West Africa), Marie-Madelaine N'Guessan, Xay. (Institut Supérieur de Sciences Péda­gogiques et Religieuses, Abidjan) and Nathanaël Yaovi Soédé (Université Catholique de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, Abidjan).

Oguejiofor addressed the specific situation, ambivalence and impediments of philosophical teaching in Africa. The academic marginalization of Africa tends to be reinforced by the lack of co-operation among the various Institutions in Africa and by the impossibility to publish and circulate philosophical works at reasonable costs. His suggestions pointed to joint efforts towards systematic philosophical research (association, journal, conferences, series). – Okure presented the paradigm of inculturation as structural element of the theological teaching at CIWA. Its twofold aim is to create an interface between theological content and life, and to critically discern the cultural underpinnings of both theology and life. Her recommendations aimed at creating a network of philosophers and theologi­ans in Africa in order to disseminate information, exchange lecturers and organize workshops on specific areas of concern. – N'Guessan paid special attention to the dialogue between education and theology. Especially the theological teaching should be done within a clearer framework of aims and methods. – Soédé re-viewed the self-understanding of the Faculties of Philosophy and of Theology at the UCAO-Abidjan. He suggested a methodological reappropriation of the Church's tradition, based on a theology that draws from African anthropology. Cultural boundaries have to be overcome by a mutual appreciation and exchange of African scholars, helped by academic associations and the improvement of the philosophical and theological libraries in the various Institutions.

The Consultation issued some concrete recommendations on the necessary reform of study programmes in theology and philosophy. It also mandated a Committee to present the results and suggestions of the Consultation in form of curricula proposals. At the meeting of this Committee in Accra in June 2003 Luke Mlilo, Josephat Oguejiofor, Nathanaël Soédé, and Marco Moerschbacher were present to work on this task.

Citation: Harald Freter. Review of Schmidt, Burghart; Schulte, Rolf, eds, Hexenglauben im modernen Afrika/Witchcraft in Modern Africa: Hexen, Hexenverfolgung und magische Vorstellungswelten/Witches, Witch-Hunts and Magical Imaginaries. H-Africa, H-Net Reviews. February, 2009.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24001

San Spirituality: Roots, Expression, and Social Consequences by J. David Lewis-Williams, D. G. Pearce (The African Archaeology Series: Altamira Press) At the intersection of Western culture and Africa are the San people of the Kalahari Desert. Once called bushmen, the San have survived various characterizations—from prehuman animals by the early European colonials to aboriginal conservationists in perfect harmony with nature by recent New Age adherents. Neither carica­ture does justice to the complex worldview of the San. Eminent anthropologists J. D. Lewis-Williams and D. G. Pearce present a balanced view of the spiritual life of this much-studied culture, examining the interplay of their cosmology, myths, rituals, and art. Integrating archaeological finds, historical accounts, ethnographic information, and interpretation of rock art, the authors discuss San cosmic geography, the role of shamans and mind-altering substances, the ritual of the trance dance, the legends recorded on stone, and other intriguing accounts of other-worldly experiences. From this, Lewis-Williams and Pearce detail the worldview of the San, how it plays out in their society, and how it has been challenged and altered by the modern world. For students of anthropology, archaeology, religion, and African studies, this volume is essential and fascinating reading.

"Archaeology is the study of material culture." "Archaeology is all about stones and bones." These two statements, reiterated while being challenged by Lewis-Williams and Pearce, all too often characterize the results, if not the interests, of much of the research of Africanist ar­chaeology. Too often, we are offered dry recitals of finds, neatly illus­trated or described and imbedded in cleverly devised classifications, catalogs of artifacts rather than thoughtful portrayals of the people or events that brought them into being. My words, not theirs, but they are consonant with attitudes that brought forth this book. Over recent years, archaeology has attempted to discern the individual in the ar­chaeological record or the gender of participants in the activities of the silent past. Lewis-Williams and Pearce plumb the psyche of those in­terviewed when some portion of the past was still retained in memory and use those data to inform the inquiry into the creation of southern African rock paintings.

The urge to classify was understandable in the early years of the discipline, as archaeology strove to determine both its purpose and its methodology, but the past four decades following the introduction of "anthropological archaeology" have obligated us to indulge in a greater introspection with regard to the myriad leavings of the past and our methodologies for reading the archaeological palimpsest in general. Lewis-Williams and Pearce remind us how far we have come in the rediscovery of humankind's psychical ingenuity, and the percep­tion of the worlds beyond its ken, through the investigation of archae­ological remains—and how far we have yet to go. In the end, it does come down to artifacts and ingenious ways of comprehending them. Artifacts left us by the past take many forms transcending simple com­pilations of "stones and bones."

Delving into the workings of a nonliterate culture of distant antiq­uity is a dicey business. It is dependent on our comprehension of how such cultures articulated their everyday needs, and their comprehen­sion of the world about them, in the material remains found in our ex­cavations. Classifications were one answer, and the presumption of function—mundane or ritual—another. Neither approach was intellec­tually satisfying, so we looked toward analogous living people for an answer. The suggestion was for an archaeology founded in the theo­retic of anthropology, utilizing the findings of ethnologists and their descriptions of how cultures functioned to inspire the interpretation of archaeological residues.

We realize that the gap between past ways of life and their sup­posedly living representatives is a broad one. Yet, the closest we can ap­proach long-dead cultures is the study of more recent folk engaged in the solution of similar kinds of ecological or social dilemmas. This ap­proach is one suggesting models of behavior based on the eyewitness observations of such folk. Avoiding the pitfalls of simplistic "ethno­graphic analogy," our authors realize that the most recent San, long in contact with alien cultures and changing social and economic condi­tions, have long ago ceased to be pristine representatives of "paleolithic man." How, then, can we close with the painters and explore their world?

Lewis-Williams and Pearce set forth on a fascinating excursion into the psychology and religious experience of extant dwellers in the per­ceptual universe of more modem representatives of the erstwhile for-aging people of South Africa. Only after having determined how this particular group of people expressed their perceptions can we proceed to think how we can use this information to determine some of the at­titudes and visual presentations of the past.

Using the ethnographic observations of an earlier generation of in­vestigators, Lewis-Williams and Pearce attempt to reconstruct the world-view of an even earlier coterie of southern African hunter-gatherers. The neuropsychological approach they propose, resting on a solid body of anthropological evidence, provides a bridge for the extrapolation of some ethnography into the deep past.

One of the most impressive and enduring of ancient humankind's leavings is art. Even if they are idle doodlings they are true representations of a world—invisible, as well as material—inhabited by the artists. In this case, we can present the art painted on rock faces scat­tered about southern Africa, or engraved onto stone, as vivid represen­tations of a people's worldview. It, too, is often treated simply as anartifact to be inventoried, or as an artwork to be admired. Or abstracted into decorations divorced from their cultural context. Nevertheless, the rock art is more than the idle daubing of bored hunters waiting out the passage of game. Thus, an obvious conclusion asks us to determine what it is and how it functioned in the foreign country of the past. Re­cently, Augustine Holl offered a new perspective on interpreting some of the parietal rock art of the Sahara as instructive narratives associated with boys' initiation camps. The rock paintings of southern Africa ap­pear to be equally instructive, though superficially less concerned with the mundane affairs of maintenance of the group's society or economy than with actions confirming a particular relationship with the super-natural and the role of the charismatic shaman in articulating that as­sociation.

This ground-breaking volume detailing the how and why of the San spiritual experience and its expression in their art, and the re-cre­ation of the ancient foragers' worldview, ought to be of interest to not only archaeologists researching this and other aspects of the archaeo­logical palimpsest but also to anthropologists and historians of art searching to understand the neuropsychological wellsprings of human creativity as well as to students of charismatic religious experience.

The Significant Role Of Initiation In The Traditional Igbo Culture And Religion by George Nnaemeka Oranekwu (Iko) The main prospect among other things, therefore, is to study properly the significant role of initiation in the Traditional Igbo culture and Religion, not only to appreciate the density of meaning but more to see how it can form a valuable foundation, an inculturation basis for a fruitful, meaningful and enduring pastoral catechesis of Christian Initiation. In other words, how can the idea of initiation in traditional Igbo culture and religion be used to make “Christus pro nobis” become “Christus in nobis".

If every work or study must have a method of approach, ours then will not and cannot be an exception. Which system of approach is adopted here for this study?

The system of approach mainly adopted in this study is historico­analytical. It is nonetheless also descriptive, expository and synthetical. The nature of this study and the aim it is set to achieve demand that the above approach be adopted for the purpose of coherence and clarity.

The approach having been taken care of, what then is the scope of this study?

"Culture”, it is said, ,,provides society with inherited transmissible code of conduct as both part and junction of the total system of ideas, values, knowledge, philosophy, law, moral, and belief systems which constitute the content of life of a society." Even centuries before the science of culture was born, the most effective missionaries were those blessed with a deep appreciation of the diversity of cultures and of the important role which cultures play in human behaviour. The most successful apostolic approaches have always been the ones geared most closely to the character and needs of the particular life-way. Effective mission has always gone hand in hand with immersion in local cultures. Hence the Church of Vatican II, however, became increasingly aware of its catholicity in the most authentic sense; the council fathers realised anew that the Christian faith is too rich to be portrayed adequately through a single cultural expression.

God did not wait for missionaries to arrive to show Himself. Through the ages God has been revealing Himself in the customs, history and traditions of all peoples. He is present everywhere and missionaries help make explicit what is already implicit. What the missionaries introduced to Africans was not God but Christianity. The second Vatican Council brought out this theme very strongly. Some key texts of the Council serve as background for a return to an understanding of religious symbols of the people. For the Spanish-speaking apostolate in Latin America, that is the beginning of any effective catechesis today. Some of these key texts of the second Vatican Council are quoted extensively thus: „It follows that among all the nations of the earth there is but one people of God which takes its citizens from every race .... The Church, or People of God, takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people by establishing that kingdom. Rather does she foster and take to herself, insofar as they are good, the ability, resources, and customs of each people. Taking them to herself she purifies, strengthens and ennobles them." In another number it continues: „The effect of her work is that whatever good is found sown in the minds and hearts of men or in the rites and customs of peoples, these not only are preserved from destruction, but are purified, raised up, and perfected for the glory of God, the confusion of the devil, and the happiness of men." In these and in other numerous decrees, especially `Ad Gentes' (On the Mission of the Church), and the decree `Nostra Aetate' (On the Relationship of the Church to non-Christians), the Church sees clearly that the task is not to destroy but to ennoble and to perfect.

The decree `Ad Gentes' understood mission not in the sense of the `the pagan countries out there', but in the sense that all men are in the process of conversion and all have God's grace already working in them. Mission means going out of ourselves to give witness to the presence of the risen Lord. “That they (The Missionaries) may be able”, the document advises; ,,to give this witness to Christ fruitfully, let them be joined to those men by esteem and love and acknowledge themselves to be members of the group of men among whom they live. Let them share

in the cultural and social life by the various exchanges and enterprises of human living. Let them be familiar with their national and religious traditions and gladly and reverently laying bare the seeds of the word which lie hidden in them ...." Going further, it says: ,,From the customs and traditions of their people, from their wisdom and learning, from their arts and sciences these churches borrow all those things which contribute to the glory of their creator, the revelation of the Saviour's grace or the proper arrangement of Christian life .... Thus, it will be more clearly seen in what ways faith can seek for understanding in the philosophy and wisdom of these peoples .... Thanks to such a procedure every appearance of syncretism and false particularism can be excluded, and Christian life can be accommodated to the genius and the dispositions of each culture."

Other decree of Vatican II, which reflects on the cultural expression of religion is `Nostra Aetate'. If the Church can speak favorably about those who have not even begun the process of Christianity, how much more can she affirm those who are already in the process of Christianity. The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions. She, therefore, has this exhortation for her sons and daughters: „Prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture."

Adhering to the instructions and guidelines of the Church, as we have seen above, the scope of this study is limited to the Igboland and its people. This gives better chance for a thorough and in-dept study of the subject matter. However, cogent examples outside our scope, that help for better illustrations and understanding of certain important points are

not neglected.

From where is the information contained in this study obtained? What is the source or are the sources, as the case may be?

The experience of the writer of this work as an Igbo, born, trained and brought up in Igboland and moreso as a Catholic priest, trained, ordained and worked in Igboland, form the primary source. No doubt valuable and important literatures written by indigenous and non indigenous writers on Igbo people, their life, environment, culture, religion, custom and tradition also form a major material for this study.

The Holy Bible, other Church's documents, some theological books, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, very important articles relevant for our work and other useful scientific works from various Libraries (private as well as public) form important part of the sources also.

However, inspite of the availability of all the necessary materials for this work, the task has not been an easy one. Below are considered the `necessary' obstacle, limitation and problem.

As already mentioned above, it must be acknowledged that the task of writing generally on initiation rites in Africa is a very difficult one. This is given to the fact that at one time or the other in the process of initiation rites, absolute secrecy is maintained the breaking of which is considered a taboo.

Among the Igbo of Nigeria, tampering with the absolute secrecy of initiation rites is sometimes punishable by confiscation, destroying and burning of the property or even death of whoever reveals the secret. Nevertheless, the maintenance of the absolute secrecy is essentially very important because in it lies the `life-force' and the success of all Igbo-African initiation rites. Hence the necessity.

Having seen the `necessary' obstacle, limitation and problem in this study, how then are we going to study the subject matter? In other words, what is the sequence of our study?

General introduction having been taken care of, the major focus of this study that is divided into six chapters is based on the Igbo of south-eastern Nigeria. As a result of that, the study of the people constitutes the first chapter of this work. This is also considered very important because Igbo religious beliefs are strongly influenced by their historical, geographical, social and cultural background. A.C. Haddon is proved correct here as he says: ,,... no phase of religious development can be understood apart from the history of the people."

Chapter two is concerned with the title `Initiation in the Traditional Igbo Culture and Religion'. What is the traditional Igbo idea of initiation? What are the major types of initiation, the perculiarity of the Igbo initiation rites, the three distinctive and characteristic moments in the traditional Igbo initiation rites? Who are the agents of traditional Igbo initiation rites and what do they do? What are the obstacles to the initiation rites among the traditional Igbo?

The significant role of initiation in the traditional Igbo culture and religion is also treated. At this juncture, it is good to observe that every other chapter has a short introduction, which gives an overview (Überblick) of the content of that particular chapter, and then a short conclusion, which gives a brief summary of what has been discussed in the particular chapter. The observation having been taken note of chapter three treats `Christian initiation'. It sets off with a brief historical development of the concept of sacrament and other various teachings of the church on the same subject (sacrament). Before the study of the sacraments of Christian initiation, their effects and the ministers, some expressions of some renowned theologians on the sacrament in general, were presented. Also treated is the significant roles of the sacraments of Christian initiation.

A comparative study of traditional Igbo and Christian initiations formed the centre of attention in chapter four. Initiation on both sides were placed side by side, bringing out the common characteristics and dissimilarities in other to present a point of connection for a formidable and fundamental inculturation basis for pastoral catechesis of Christian initiation.

What then is inculturation and how do we go about it? Chapter five handles this question and even goes further to give the scope, the importance and the principle for it, after presenting a brief historical origin of inculturation, its previous terminologies and the examination of those previous terms (of inculturation).

`Pastoral Catechesis for Inculturation of Traditional Igbo Initiation' constitutes chapter six, which is the last chapter before the general conclusion. The highlight here is proposing models of traditional Igbo initiation that can form solid and fruitful basis for pastoral catechesis of Christian initiation for the Igbo Christians.

A Dictionary of African Mythology: The Mythmaker As Storyteller by Harold Scheub (Oxford) (Paperback) marvelous collection of hundreds of fascinating, mysterious, and revealing tales rewritten in summary form, Scheub suggests the immense sweep and diversity of African mythology.

Scheub offers an unprecedented collection of 400 stories, arranged alphabetically, that touch on virtually every aspect of religious belief. Here are gods and goddesses, epic heroes and divine tricksters, along with epics of the world's origins, the struggle between the human and the divine, and much more. Scheub covers the entire continent, from the mouth of the Nile to the shores of the Cape of Good Hope, including North African as well as sub-Saharan cultures. Here, for example, is the tale of Abu Zayd (from the Bani Hilal of Tunisia), an epic hero who battles a jinni; and here too is a myth of how the moon and the toad created the first man and woman, from the Soko of Congo. Scheub not only retells each story, but provides information about the respective belief system, the main characters, and related stories or variants. Perhaps most important, Scheub emphasizes the role of mythmaker as storyteller--as a performer for an audience. He explores various techniques, from the rhythmic movements of a Zulu mythmaker's hands to the way a storyteller will play on the familiar context of other myths within her cultural context.

In A Dictionary of African Mythology, Harold Scheub has constructed an invaluable bridge to the richly diverse oral cultures of Africa. In this magnificent collection, he not only provides hundreds of fascinating myths, but recaptures their cultural contexts--in which story and storyteller, tradition and performance, all merge.

Rethinking Pastoralism in Africa: Gender, Culture & the Myth of the Patriarchal Pastoralist by Dorothy L. Hodgson (Eastern African Studies: Ohio University Press) African herding societies, whose existence once revolved around the grazing and reproductive cycles of cattle, sheep, goats, or camels, have been influenced greatly in recent times by the introduction of Islam, their incorporation into state systems, and the imposition of a capitalistic economy.

However, the myth of the patriarchal pastoralist in Africa persists; it rests on four features: Men own and control cattle; elder men dominate the core political sphere; men serve as the key modes of social interaction and influence; and pastoralist men view themselves and are seen by others as the "real" pastoralists.

The contributors to Rethinking Pastoralism in Africa demonstrate that pastoralist gender relations are dynamic, relational, historical, and produced through complex interactions. In addition, women may gain power as they age.

By challenging conventional assumptions, Rethinking Pastoralism in Africa prompts a rethinking of pastoralist theories and advances feminist analysis of gender in Africa. It poses compelling questions for feminist scholars and others interested in political power, cultural expression, resource access and control, and forms of female solidarity. The collection informs as well broader debates within anthropology, history, and African studies on ethnicity, cultural change, social organization, power, and local mediation of such processes as colonialism, missionary work, and development. Dorothy L. Hodgson is assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University.


Reinventing Religions: Syncretism and Transformation in Africa and the Americas edited by Sidney M. Greenfield and Andre Droogers (Rowman & Littlefield) Once a central concept in anthropology, syncretism has recently re-emerged as a valuable tool for understanding the complex dynamics of ethnicity, postcolonialism, and transnationalism. Building on a century-long tradition of scholarship, this important book formulates a broader view of the mixing and interpenetration of religious beliefs and practices, primarily from Africa and Europe, highlighting the ways in which religions and cultures on both sides of the Atlantic have been assimilated and innovatively changed. Divided into four sections, the book focuses on religious syncretism in Brazil, Jamaica, and other parts of the Caribbean and West Africa. Greenfield and Droogers have brought together an array of outstanding international scholars whose rich and varied essays on specific geographical locales and customs comprise an innovative and comprehensive view of the transference of religious traditions and their continuity and reformulation on two continents.

About the Author
Sidney M. Greenfield is professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. André Droogers is professor of the anthropology of religion at the Free University, Amsterdam.

Changing Masters: Spirit Possession and Identity Construction Among Slave Descendants and Other Subordinates in the Sudan by G. P. Makris (Islam and Society in Africa: Northwestern University Press) The subject of this book is the exploration of the processes through which groups of subalterns articulate a positive selfidentity in terms of a counter‑hegemonic discourse.' The ethnographic context of analysis is the spirit possession cult of Zar tumbura or simply tumbura as it is practised in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum,' by slave descendants and other subordinates, originally from the Southern and Western Sudan, and the Nuba hills. Celebrated in impoverished neighbourhoods and shanty‑towns, tumbura is a little‑known cult,' in contrast to its sister but sociologically different cult of Zar bore which is mainly but not exclusively practised by freeborn women from the Northern Sudan. In the chapters that follow, the two practices are seen as parts of an overarching Zar cult complex' wherein differences and similarities are continuously negotiated.

In August 1996 I returned to the Sudan taking with me a working copy of this study. I wanted to finish it while in the field among my tumbura friends.


Many things had changed in the field and in my relationship with the tumbura people of Umm Badda JanUb since my last visit in 1994. Having my own transport for the first time, I set out as soon as I arrived in Khartoum to visit shaykha Nura and shaykha Halima. The road that linked Hamad al‑Nil and Umm Badda had been paved, while a new road cut across the shanty‑town from east to west. This new road was not yet paved but was very wide and unbelievably straight. It was covered with red soil which would be used as the base for the tarmac. Standing there I marvelled at this straight red line that was lost in the horizon. It marked a new order as the old puzzle of winding streets and narrow paths, blind alleys, mud‑houses, sacks, carton shades and huts had disappeared. And all these in two years. In many respects, Umm Badda JanUb was not a shanty-town anymore, at least not in the place where I was. The difference was almost startling ‑perhaps not only for me, but for the locals as well.

The new roads that had been opened at the cost of demolishing thousands of unplanned structures and removing their occupants to the western outskirts of the area had created an impression of order and relative prosperity. Places which until recently had been `closed areas' for outsiders, if only for practical reasons, were now easily accessible to everyone. Electricity and running water had already reached deep into the area and small police stations had been erected at inter-Nuba Other alongside women from the North? Impossible... It happens, of course, all things can happen.

Then Islam. Shaykh `Abd al‑Qadir al‑Rlani and Bilal. Nara had told me that she wanted to go to Mecca. Then later I heard she had applied for a visa. She sent me a message. I responded. A Nuba shaykha of tumbura will go to Mecca and Medina, I thought. That was good. The late `Abd al‑Qadir Kuka, the old blind sanjak from the Nuba hills, the son of a slave, used to talk a lot about Mecca. Tumbura was there, he claimed, but he had never seen it. He had never been to Mecca. Now Nara, a Nuba shaykha of tumbura, a Nuba woman, a subaltern, would go. Good.

From all perspectives, shaykha Nara's tumbura is the tumbura of the present or, perhaps, the future. No over­veneration of traditions, no easy relaxing in the bed of past‑time practices and conventions. The shaykha and her people continue to invent and re‑define tumbura and to work with bore, with Islam, perhaps with other things too. It has always been like that, but the `old truth' ideology as espoused by older devotees and officiants obscured this in more ways than one.

With Halima and her tumbura group the situation was different in 1996. As I have said earlier, those living in the same area with her until 1992 did not comprise any single ethnic group and did not have any sense of belonging to a distinct community, save perhaps to a community of Sudani subalterns who were not called Sadani anymore. Some had settled in the area since the 1970s as migrants from the West and the Nuba hills, while many others, especially Westerners, moved from Omdurman and Khartoum when rents there became unaffordable. As most of these people did not usually attend the ceremonies Halima's group celebrated, it cannot be argued that the post­1992 spatial arrangements and the opening of the new road affected the group's degree of localisation. Rather, they removed Halima's tumbura house from the area and made it more inaccessible than before, especially to those who were coming from Fitihab, northern Omdurman, Khartoum, and Khartoum North.

Besides this, what seemed to bother the old shaykha was what would happen to her group when she died. During the last three years she had celebrated very few tumbura ceremonies, although on a day‑to‑day basis several people from the immediate neighborhood visit her for advice, medicine, or incense. Most of them want `to hit the tumbura,' the shaykha told me, `but have no money to spare.' When I asked her why she does not organize a special day in the week to receive patients like Nura has done, the shaykha frowned and told me people do that to get rich quickly.

As far as the other women of shaykha Halima's group were concerned, very few seemed to be willing and able to take Halima's position. It had always been very difficult for me to inquire directly into the matter because it would be like asking 'someone `what would you do after Halima's death?' while Halima was still alive and well. But even without direct questioning, I think that I know the answer. The group does not function the way it used to; there seems to be no future for it and most people know it. Why should they bother then? For shaykha Halima no female devotee of those who have approached the cult recently can become shaykha. `These girls,' the shaykha said, `love the tumbura; they bring incense to the shaykh [`Abd al‑Qadir al‑Jilani] and would love to slaughter [sacrifice] if they could afford it. But do they know anything about tumbura? No ...The shaykha is like a tree. It has roots that go deep in the ground. It has branches that cover the people [devotees] from everything.' As it seems, the future of tumbura in Umm Badda belongs to the young and energetic Nara alNabawiyya sift al‑zdr.

The celebration of the last tumbura ceremony in Halima's house brought some of these difficulties to the fore and made more trenchantly obvious some of the transformations that have been under way for many years.

A very important problem was that of transportation. In all probability, had I not had a car, the shaykha would not have been able to visit sanjak `Awad Jabir and two or three of her principle devotees who would then take it upon themselves to organise things and contact the rest of the group. Our attempt to reach 'Awad Ribir's house in al‑Thawra, Omdurman, almost ended in failure as the old shaykha could not locate it. When we eventually found it and were received by the sanjak and his wife, it was plain that he had no wish to participate in the ceremony. The reasons he gave, one after the other, were revealing of the problem that tumbura is facing today. He first said that he was old and could not come to Umm Badda and stay for the three days. He was on medication, he herd to have his toilet, he wanted to stay at home. After all, he did not even know where Mariana lived these days. When the shaykha told him and he realized how far her house was, his resolve not to come became even stronger.

Then the sanjak said that he did not remember the songs since he had not celebrated tumbura for more than twenty years; and he reminded her that he was not really a sanjak. He used to perform at tumbura ceremonies, but it was his late brother Muhammad that was sanjak. And then, what I think was the main reason for his intransigence was spelled out: he did not want to participate in tumbura because he felt that it was improper. As he said, `from the moment I became, a civil servant (muwazzaf), I left tumbura. It is not for me any more.'

Of course, shaykha Halima would have none of this and tried hard to persuade the sanjak to help her. In the end, she was successful and 'Awad Jabir was persuaded to take part in the ceremony. A small fee ‑that most sanjaks usually receive for their artistic contribution to the ceremonies‑ was decided, and `Awad's requests for transportation and a rather immoderate quantity of `araqi for his personal consumption were graciously accepted.

Another difficulty that shaykha Halima had to overcome was the lack of funds. A few days before the ceremony she was still short of cash since the participants had not contributed enough money to cover even the essential expenses.

On the first day of the ceremony, 15 August 1996, at six o'clock in the afternoon the shaykha was ready to recite the tatraq. There were only six participants and a European couple who had helped the shaykha with her health problems. The atmosphere was pathetic. Shaykha Halima was really worried that the celebration would not be successful. Then, they came; six of them entering the hosh with a lot of noise. They were all women from Khartoum North. One of them was so old and thin it was a miracle she could still walk. They said they could not find the house and started shouting at Hallma that her instructions were lousy and useless. Then, in the midst of laughter and excitement. there was a long exchange of greetings and kisses.

The newcomers gave the celebration a great boost. On the whole, about twenty‑five participants showed up during the three days of the ceremony. Most of them were old friends, members of the group who had not seen each other for ages. Few of them got in trance during those three days, but all did their utmost to participate in the event singing the tumbura songs at the top of their voices and shaking the kashdkish rattles. Even a very old man who never moved from his chair throughout the ceremony appeared to have enjoyed himself very much. The sanjak mingled freely with the devotees and exchanged gossip and stories about their lives and about those who were not present. In this environment he seemed to have forgotten that he was an ex‑civil servant and pensioner who did not associate with the tumbura people any more.' The sacred music of the event had transformed the people. But more than that, it must have been the inchoate and diffused memory of past occasions, of half-forgotten feasts. `Heard melodies are sweet; but those unheard are sweeter', the poet tells us.

There was the key, then, to what was happening in front of me. The particular ceremony I was observing was not so much an occasion where the devotees' Sadani self‑identity was directly articulated and celebrated; it was a reunion of old friends, a celebration of communality, a coming together of old‑timers whom life had led on different walks. Certainly, all the nuances and shades of meaning concerning the Sudani self‑identity of the tumbura people, their self‑image as nas aslf (original people), were there, but they were so deeply sedimented into their bodies, so thoroughly enmeshed in their separate everyday experiences that they had no need to make them visible, to make them an object of contemplation. I asked Mansara, that very old and frail woman from Khartoum North, where she came from originally. `From the hills', she said, `the Nuba hills.' And when did you come here? I asked again. ‘Badri (early), I was still a small girl.' And then she said, `I have known these people, this tumbura, all my life.’

But it was a strange reunion. Throughout the three days of the celebration the people made sure that the door of the courtyard was always closed, and no one could enter without permission. Then, they did not use the nugdra drums at all. I asked the shaykha and some others about it and they replied that it was better not to make noise. And in case I had not understood it, a woman held my hand from the wrist and said, `police, police.' These precautions served them well. When, at some point, I went outside to get something from my car, I could hardly hear the music. I asked shaykha Halima if they had an official permit from the security people. She said that they had notified them and that a permit was not necessary.

Near the end of the ceremony, after the ritual of the fatah al‑rds, the sanjak became restless. Suddenly, he said he wanted to leave. He felt he had done his duty and now wanted to go home. The spell was undone. The celebrants did not like his decision and asked him to play more. He refused. After a while he got in the car and we drove to al‑Thawra. In the dark he could not find his house and the whole trip took us more than two hours.

A few days later, on Sunday 18 August 1996, shaykha Halima was operated on for cataract in the Omdurman Hospital. She was quite happy and relaxed, especially because she had found out that one of the nurses, a Nuba lady in her sixties, was an old tumbura devotee. Moments before the operation, I asked her how she felt. She said she was not afraid because shaykh `Abd al‑Qadir al‑Blani would protect her. The operation was successful.

Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani restores the eyesight of a shaykha. Another shaykha goes to Mecca. Tumbura still performs miracles.

The Caliph's Sister: Nana Asma'u 1793-1865: Teacher, Poet, and Islamic Leader by Jean Boyd (Frank Cass) This delightfully illustrated biography tells a story which challenges the accepted conventional view of African Muslim women. It gives the first full analysis of the life of Nana Asma'u, born 1793, the daughter of the scholar Shehu Usuman dan Fodio. The story of Asma'u's life covers her education, her wartime experiences during the Jihad from 1804 to 1808, the nurture of her literary talents by her brother Caliph Muhammad Bello and her emergence as a leader.

After the jihad the return to strict Islamic standards meant that many cultural activities were banned ‑ some kinds of drumming and dancing, and also the bori cult which had effectively controlled the patterns of the lives of many women. Asma'u, described by her contemporaries as 'tireless', energetically set to work to introduce an equivalent Islamic organisation, the Yan Taru movement, to respond to women's needs. The efficiency of this organisation is witnessed by the fact that it is still in existence 130 years after her death!

Asma'u's intellectual acumen was matched by a literary flair; she wrote in three languages, Arabic for formal pieces, Hausa for her didactic verse, and Fulfulde when she wished to address her contemporaries within the ruling circles.

In her maturity Asma'u was esteemed as a poet by scholarly contemporaries and revered by her Yan Taru students; by Caliphate leaders she was regarded as an authoritative figure and she remained in full vigour until her death in 1865. Asma'u's intellectualism, her efforts to deal practically and sensibly with the problems faced by nineteenth century society in what today is Northern Nigeria, and the ways in which her works and memory have been cherished are now, in this book, made available to a larger audience.

The author, Jean Boyd, spent 29 years in Northern Nigeria, much of the time working under the aegis of the celebrated doyen of West African Islamic scholars, the Waziri of Sokoto, Dr. Junaidu.


The Caliph's Sister is about a Muslim woman called Asma'u whose mother tongue was an African language, whose skin was brown. She was born when the French Revolution was at its height in a village called Degel situated in the dry, sandy plains of Hausa­land, which form part of the Western Sudan. The word `Sudan', used by the Arabs to describe the lands south of the Sahara, includes the Sudan of the Nile as well as the Western Sudan which is north of the Niger.

Nigeria, a country delineated and named by the British, was a word unknown to Asma'u; today Nigeria encompasses the places where she lived. It is a land of great contrasts: the people of the coastlands fringing the Atlantic are different from those living in northern Hausaland: their languages are mutually incompre­hensible. In the north, in contrast to the south, the horse had great value in the nineteenth century. The strength of an army lay in the number of its cavalry: merchants and men of wealth rode horses which were beautifully caparisoned. Donkeys were ridden by villagers and also used to carry loads; camels were the means of transport on the fringes of the desert, and pack‑oxen were ridden by nomads. None of these animals could survive the scourge of the tsetse‑fly in the jungles of the south, so cultural contact was east westwards between the many varied peoples in the Sudan, and also northwards into and across the immense and dangerous Sahara desert.

In the place where Asma'u was born, no rain fell during eight months of every year, so trade routes, the paths taken by cattle­drovers, and the ways trodden by armies were all dictated by the availability of water‑holes. When the rains came in June, preluded by violent storms, the land was planted with millet and guinea‑corn without which the populations of the Sudan could not survive. The unfarmed African bush, with its herbs, medicinal plants and fruits, was used as a grazing ground by nomadic herders, and this they shared with wild animals such as elephants, hyenas, bush‑pigs and antelopes.

Dege was a village where scholars assembled round their leader Shehu dan Fodio, Asma'u's father. He was a preacher who fought a Jihad and won. He was learned, pious and resolute; he was also a prolific writer, as were his brother Abdullahi, his son Muhammad Bello ‑ and others, including Asma'u herself. These authors left an amazing literary legacy which historians of the Western tradition have been using, since the 1960s, to piece together the story of an Islamic Revolution which changed, or affected, an area the size of Western Europe.

In his own lifetime the Shehu was regarded with awe, and was greatly revered. When he died, in 1817, the spell was broken and his successors had to contend with an upsurge of warfare waged by ousted rulers bent on recovering power.

Muhammad Bello who succeeded his father was a skilled administrator, a pious and upright judge and an intrepid warrior. This Caliph valued his sister Asma'u on account of her character and intelligence; she played a meaningful role in the Caliphate and was given encouragement by her husband, Waziri Gidado.

After Bello's death in 1837 Asma'u was foremost among those who kept alive the ideological flame of the Islamic Revolution led by her father. Others included her sisters, five of whom were also writers.

It was Gidado's and Asma'u's grandsons who had to face the invading British in 1903, and control of the Caliphate passed from their hands.


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