2
introduction
me. He responds that: ‘It is God that ordered him to come to meet me in that
way and that the bizarre shouts are nothing but his conversation with God.
It is God that orders him and his apostles to tremble in this way.’ During
Morel’s visit to Nkamba, Kimbangu, his disciples, and the assembled crowd
largely ignore and openly challenge Morel’s orders, probing questions, and
authority as a representative of the colonial administration. Consequently,
Morel advised his superiors in the colonial government for urgent and imme-
diate action to suppress the movement because “the natives will say they have
found the God of the Blacks . . . it is certain that he [Kimbangu] could direct
the spirit of the natives toward hostility to the White race.”2
October 1, 2005. I am staying in the town of Luozi in the westernmost prov-
ince of Bas- Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The town is the
administrative center of Luozi territory, which is a largely rural area covered
with green rolling hills, mountains, and wide plots of cassava, soybeans, and
other agricultural crops. I am walking down the red dirt road next to the soc-
cer field that doubles as an airplane landing strip, an area locals jokingly refer
to as Luozi’s airport. My friend Tanu3 and I were invited to attend an event
organized by Bundu dia Kongo (bdk), a nationalist movement seeking to
address the political and economic marginalization of Kongo people by com-
bining religion, politics, and cultural revitalization.4 The larger goal of bdk
was to gain autonomy by restoring the precolonial Kongo Kingdom in the
present day. Their members were becoming increasingly active in Luozi and
other parts of the Lower Congo, as well as Kinshasa. Because of their emphatic
rejection of Christianity as the “White man’s religion,” and advocating their
own religion (called BuKongo) instead, bdk members were often in conflict
with local churches. This particular event was to honor members of the group
killed in 2004 in a confrontation with both local law enforcement and mem-
bers of the major missionary- founded Protestant church in Luozi. Tanu and I
meet a small group of bdk members on the road to the cemetery, where they
are singing and waving small green branches. As we join the group, one of the
local leaders tells me a young White missionary wanted to see the ceremony
and they denied her access. Looking at me fiercely, he says, “We can’t reveal all
our secrets. But you, you are our sister, so you can come.” After the ceremony
ends, I am introduced to another man representing the regional leadership of
the group. I reach out my hand for a handshake in greeting, and he just looks
down at it, unmoving. I stand there with my hand outstretched, completely
embarrassed, until Tanu quickly reminds me to use the bula makonko ges-
ture, where the hands are cupped and clapped together three times. I clap my
Previous Page Next Page