By J. W. Fernandez
Bwiti probably describedas a syncretistreligionderivedfroma varietyof autochthonous and Christiantraditions.One of its areasof occurrenceis the northernand northwestern a part of Gabon, the place it's particularlyassociatedwith the Fang, even though it is or was once neveradheredto by way of morethan8 or 10 in keeping with cent of the Fangpopulation(p. 356). Its participants declare that their imaginativeelaborationsof liturgy and trust come to them in dream communicationswith the ancestorsor less than the impression of eboga,a drug to which they're deeply attached(p. 4). As a matterof truth, Bwiti is among the few Africanreligious routine to argue its efficiency from the consistent use of a psychoreactivedrug particularly than,say,possessionbysupernaturableingsortheimpersonationofsuchbeingsbymeans of masks.It is on the sametime additionally a hugely polymorphousreligion,exhibitingsubstantial variationsin doctrine,worshipandsymbolismfromonebranchto another,depending between different issues at the measure to which affinity with Christianityis emphasisedor de-emphasised.Fernandez'sstudy limits itself to the department referred to as AsumejeEning ('Commencementof Life') which, although stated to lean extra towardsthe autochthonous religiouspole, has neverthelessadoptedcertainbiblicalfigures,includingEyenZame(Jesus Christ) and NyingwanMebege(the Virgin Mary), as 'Great Gods'.
In addition to a couple of neighborhood ethnographersBwiti has during the last thirty to 40 yearsalso attracteda small crowd of internationalsocial scientists, which through now makes it some of the most commonly and profoundly defined African religions. except Fernandezone may perhaps point out the names of Viciana Vilaldach(for equatorialGuinea),
GeorgesBalandier,Rene Bureau(not mentionedby Fernandez),StanislawSwiderskiand, extra lately, Andre Mary (La naissancea l'envers:Paris: l'Harmattan, 1983). due to the fact Fernandez'sfield researchended in 1960, his learn may be consideredas referring to the conditionsprevailingin or as much as the past due 1950s.For informationon laterdevelopments one has thereforeto flip to authorssuch as Mary.
Before the publicationof this magisterialstudy Fernandezhad already,over a interval oftwodecades,exploreditsmainthemesinanimpressivenumberofarticles,which,taken jointly, provide us a good suggestion of ways his considering on Bwiti has built. As anthropologistsare turning into increasingly more awareof the necessity to research the influences,
pressuresand processesunderlyingtheir personal production,and as Fernandezhas through now develop into a number one determine in Africanist anthropology,it can be important someday to reconstruct his highbrow trip, very like J. L. Lowes (Fernandez's version) reconstructedthe genesisof Coleridge's'KublaKhan'.One area,amongseveral,in which this sort of learn should be fruitfully undertaken is Fernandez's presentation of Bwiti christologicalthinkingat differentstagesof his career,a subjectwe will returnto later during this evaluation.
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Extra resources for Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa
In his visions he has seen and been able to create significant new rituals. dances. and songs in Bwiti. When not involved in leading the rituals or dran1atically pronouncing the •·evangiles, · · he is scarcely to be seen in the village. He is off hunting in the forest. Michel Bie Ngounya ("'The Knowledgeable One") The Yemba ... knowledgeable one," of the mother chapel. He explains to visitors and to inquiring members the meanings of Bwiti. He often gives the leader's sennons or gives sennons ofhis own.
23 We will speak rather of the arguments that each person is making for himself, for his family and kin-group and on behalf of his culture. Fang are an argumentative people and it is no surprise that one of the most active institutions among them was the men 's council hause (aba). an arena of argument aptly called the · 'palaver hause·· by Spanish administrators. It is true that these arguments are often residual and must be interpolated. But occasionally they emerge in an unexpected moment of epiphany or denouement and become evident as a selfishness or altruisn1.
Everyone was anxious to know why a European (111angen) wished to live among them. The speculation was particularly intense because it was said I had come to establish a commerce. Some had heard that I was a mwan amerika (a child of America}, and since this phrase was often used for Protestant missionaries. some thought I might be intending to set up a mission station. When, as it turned out, I wanted only to live among them to leam their way of life, there was evident disappointment, and some drifted away.
Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa by J. W. Fernandez