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ISSN: 1570-0178

Volume 5, Issue 3 (16 May 2003)

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Teachings of the Jamaa movement: Texts and commentaries

transcribed , translated, and commented by

Johannes Fabian

University of Amsterdam


Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Amsterdam
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 185
1012 DK Amsterdam
The Netherlands



Text 1: Of man (1)


Text 2: Of man (2)

Context and setting

Swahili text and English translation



Text 3: Of angels



Text 2: Of man (2)

Context and setting

The sirens call the end of the day shift and groups of workers emerge from repair shops and hangars; others come up from the open pit mines, blasts of flaming mineral colors carved by huge machinery into the dull arid savanna that surrounds them. Those from above and those from below meet on the red dust road that leads them to the workers' camp. Some walk, others ride bicycles; all look much alike in their soiled overalls and with their tired faces. A raised barrier admits them to the settlement. There they disperse in a geometrical maze of streets lined with small, identical-looking brick houses. They are greeted by women carrying babies astride their hips and balancing bundles of food or firewood on their heads. Bands of children are playing in a world they built for themselves, girls absorbed in rhymes and hand-clapping dances, boys pushing dream cars, elaborate, ethereal structures of bent wire and cardboard. Tulip trees, jacarandas, and rising smoke blend in the rays of a setting sun into a red, golden-green and bluish haze that hovers over corrugated iron roofs with deceptive serenity. The workers are immersed in the smells of charcoal, maniok, and sweat. They have come home.
A small group of sixty or seventy men and women, too small to be noticed among the thousands who live here, slowly gathers in front of the church in the center of the settlement. They welcome each other with a special greeting, call each other father and mother. Soon they will assemble for their weekly meeting. While they wait for others to arrive, they have time for a friendly talk. I have been waiting for them, and now I sit with a group of men in our favorite place, on the edge of a concrete-lined drainage ditch, our feet touching the dust and rubble left by the torrents of the rainy season. Tomorrow is payday, everyone is out of money, and so five or six of us share one strong, toasted smoke of a Belga Jaune. As the cigarette makes the rounds I do not dare to pull out my full pack. Our communion is too precious to be spoiled by such a display of the white man's inexhaustible resources. We are just getting into an intricate discussion of bridewealth and my ethnographer's mental notebook is ready, but we are called to the meeting. We walk over to the hall. Inside, we take our seats on low wooden benches, men and women facing each other. Babies cry and toddlers run in and out while the group waits in silence. Someone recites a prayer, we join, and return to silence. Then Baba Binga pronounces the greeting and embarks on his instruction.

Swahili text1 and English translation

1. Tulikuwa sawa bantu benyi kupotea/ kupotea kwetu kwa sababu sisi hatujui tena bumuntu ye- yetu/ hatujueyo: tunajiasahabu sana: tunasahabu sana bumuntu yetu/
1. We were like people who had gotten lost. This loss of ourselves came about because we no longer know our bumuntu.3 This is what we do not know anymore; we forget ourselves completely, we forget our bumuntu altogether.
2. tunaona huyu anapita asema huyu muntu anapita/ huyu anapita asema ule muntu anapita/ tunasema mi simujui/
2. We see someone going by and we say: "This muntu goes by, he goes by." We say: "I don't know him."
3. alakini: si hivi: mwee bababa na bamama/ bumuntu yetu: tunatafuta sasa wee bababa na bamama/ siye tuwe na kazi kabisa ya kujua bumuntu yetu/ sisi tunajua bumuntu yetu: mara ingine pale tutakuwa na njila kabisa/ mara ingine pale tutajuana sana/ mara ingine pale tutakuwa bantu ba kweli: ao: tutakuwa bantu ba Mungu/ kama sisi tunajua bumuntu yetu/ jambo yetu bababa na bamama: jambo yetu sana/
3. But this is not so, bababa and bamama. We now seek our bumuntu, bababa and bamama. We take up the great task to get to know our bumuntu. If we know our bumuntu, then, perhaps, we shall really have a way. Then we shall know each other; then we shall again be real bantu, that is, God's bantu -- if we know our bumuntu. Greeting.
4. sisi tuliona mfano moja/ mule mu mugini yetu mule/ muntu moya alikufa: kama ni wa kupita mu njila: kama alikuwa namuna gani: anakufa tu mu mbalambala/ sasa bantu mingi beko banamupita/ kama anasema: eh: ule muntu ataweza ya ku bantu ba Mungu: beko wapi? yee naye ni muntu/ pahali pa kumuzika ule muntu: yee anaanza kuuliza: eh: mwende mukamwambie musambidizi: mukwambie mwalimu: ambie bantu ba Mungu bakuje kuzika huyu muntu/ bote iko banamupita beko paka banasema vile/ ule anamupita anasema paka vile/ ule anapita anamusema paka vile/ ule anamupita anakusema paka vile/ jambo yetu bababa na bamama/ jambo yetu sana/
4. We saw an example [for this]. Back home in our village. A man died. Maybe he was on his way through [the village], or whatever he was up to, he just died on the highway. Now, many people passed by him. Perhaps someone said: "Eh, this man could be helped by the people of God; where are they?" He4 is a muntu, too. Instead of burying this man, he begins to ask: "Eh, go tell the prayer-leader, tell the teacher so that he can tell the people of God to come and bury this man." All the people who go by talk like this. Everyone who passes the dead man says the same.5 Greeting.
5. bale balikuwa banapita habana bantu? ni bantu/ alafu bale balikuwa banatafutia kuzika ule muntu/ ndyo pasipo bantu? ni bantu/ balikuwa paka ba- bantu/ bale bababa balikuwa banapita ule muntu wa kufa ku njila: balimupita sababu nini? sababu balikosa kujua umu- umuntu/ umuntu wabo/ balikosa kujua umuntu wabo/
5. Are those who went by not bantu? [Audience answers] Yes, they are bantu. But the ones they looked for in order to bury this man --- are they not bantu? Yes, they were bantu. Yes, indeed. The men6 who passed this person who was dying on the road -- why did they go by? Because they failed to know their bumuntu. Yes, they failed to know their bumuntu.
6. tena mufano ingine: sisi tuliona tena mufano ingine paka hivi/ muntu anakuya anazunguluka mugini mukubwa kabisa/ anatafuta pa kulala: yee kuona hapana/ banamwambia asema: wende kule ku bakristiani/ kule ku kanisa/ ndyo wende ukatafute fasi: ya kulala/
6. Another example: We saw another example, like this: A person was walking around in a very big village [town]. He looked for a place to stay [to sleep] but he didn't see any. They told him: "Go over there to the Christians, there by the church, that's where you should go and look for a place to sleep."
7. humu anapita: hamuna bantu bababa na bamama? mulikuwa/ mulikuwa bantu bamingi: mulikuwa tena bantu ba mingi kuzidi/ angaria banamusima kule/ ule banatuma: banawaza nini kwiko bale bapagano? banasema: bale bantu bo banajua bantu ba Mu- ba Mungu/ ba Mungu/ ndyo banayua bantu benza- benzao/ ndyo banayua bantu ba kupita/ ndyo banayua bagenyi/ jambo yetu bababa na bamama/ jambo yetu sana/ kumbe bababa na bamama juu ya bumuntu yetu: ni kintu kikubwa sana cha si kutafuta/
7. Were there no bantu in this place where the person passed, bababa and bamama? Yes, there were. There were many bantu; many, indeed. See, how they get rid7 of him and send him [to someone else] -- what do these pagans think? They say: "Those people, they know the people of God. They are the ones who know their fellow men. They know people who pass; they know strangers." Greeting. Therefore, bababa and bamama, as regards our bumuntu, it is a great thing for us to search for.
8. hata sisi bababa na bamama vile tunasema: vile baliuliza kwiko muntu anauliza asema: bantu banapita mu njia ni ngapi? huyu anasema: bantu ni bamingi/ anakutola/ huyu anasema: ni bantu mbili banapita: ni bantu mbili nani? bwana na bi- na bibi/ ndyo banapita mu njila kwanza busubuyi: kuangusha jua/ 8. Bababa and bamama, we also talk this way. [Maybe] someone asks:8 "How many people passed on the road?" This one says: "Many." He is wrong. This one says: "Two people passed." Who are those two people? Husband and wife, they pass on the road from morning to sundown.
9. hata sisi benyewe: tunashindwa: si bantu mbili/ ule bwana na bibi/ si tunashindwa hata kujua umuntu yetu/ hata tunaekala pamo- pamoja/ tunashindwa tena vile vile/ tunashindwa tena vile vile/
9. But even we fail, the two of us, this husband and wife. Even we fail to know our bumuntu. We live together, but we fail all the same. We fail all the same.
10. kumbe: si bababa na bamama/ sawa vile bale bantu ba kupita mu njila banamupita muntu wa kufa: banatutakia si bantu ba Mungu/ asema ndyo banenea kuzika ule muntu/ hata ule muntu banamwima2 pa kulala: banatutakia si bantu ba Mungu: wende wende ku bantu ba Mungu: ndyo: ba kuweza kukupa fasi ya kulala/ 10. So they appeal to us, bababa and bamama, the people who pass on the road, pass the man who is dying. They appeal to us, people of God [thinking]: "Those are the ones who can bury that man." Or the man to whom they refuse to give a place to sleep -- they appeal to us, people of God [and tell him]: "Go to the people of God, they will be able to give you a place to sleep."
11. kumbe: hata pale penyewe/ kumbe sisi benyewe bale banatakia vile/ tunatafuta siye kabisa tujue paka umuntu yetu zaidi/ kwa sababu huyu muntu: iko na kule ulitoka/ haba banakosa kusaidia muntu mwenzao/ banakosa kujua umuntu wabo/ banakosa tu kintu kikubwa sana: abajui na muntu kule alito- alitoka/ jambo yetu na bababa na bamama/ jambo yetu sana/ kumbe pale tunakosa ile mawazo/ tunajua kule tulitoka? hapana/
banawaza tu: muntu ni pa dunia/ mara ingine banawaza muntu anatoka kwiko baba yake na mama yake bananizala/ ni vile bantu banawaza/ kumbe kama na sisi tunawaza namna ile: tunasahau na ule alituumba/ tunasahau na kule tulitoka/ mara ingine: kama na sisi tunasahau juu ya umuntu yetu/ ni kule tutakuenda: hatutaona njila/ batatuuliza tena paka vile vile/ wee uko muntu gani? wee unatoka wapi? pasipo kujua umuntu wako/ batatuuliza mwee bababa na bamama/ jambo yetu bababa na bamama/ jambo yetu sana/
11. This is the point: We, the ones to whom they appeal, shall seek to know more and more our bumuntu. Because this man9 came from where you come from. And when they [those who passed] failed to help their fellow man it was because they failed to know their bumuntu. They fail in a very great matter indeed. They do not know where man came from. Greeting. Therefore, if we fail in this thought [of bumuntu], do we then know where we came from? No. They only think man is on earth. Or man came from his father and his mother who brought me into the world. This is how people think. If even we think this way [it means that] we forget the one who created us; we forget where we came from. Again, if even we forget our umuntu, then we don't see a direction in which to go. They will ask us like this: "What sort of a man are you? Where did you come from that you don't know your umuntu?" This is what they are going to ask us, bababa and bamama. Greeting.
12. tunazungumuza kwanza pale: huyu muntu: vile tujue kwanza muntu mwenyewe/ 12. So let us talk it over together; let us first get to know muntu himself.
13. siku moja bababa na bamama balituambia banatuulizaka banasema: muntu ni kintu gani? muntu ni nini? siye mara ingine tunajibwako moja moja tunasema: muntu ni mawazo/ muntu ni mawazo/ 13. One day, the bababa and bamama talked to us and asked: "What sort of a thing is muntu? What is muntu?" We answered one by one, saying, Muntu is mawazo. Muntu is mawazo.
14. mara ingine banaulizako: muntu ni mawazo namna gani? si tunajua muntu: ni mwili/ si tunasema muntu ni mawazo/ alafu huyu muntu mwenyewe alikuwaka wapi? ule muntu mawa- mawazo/ alikuwa wapi? mara ingine: banatujibu banatuambia: ule muntu alikuwa kwa Mungu tangu za- zamani/ zamani/ katika mawa- mawazo ya Mungu/ ule muntu alikuwa kwa Mungu tangu zamani katika mawa- mawazo/ 14. Then they asked us again: "How is it that muntu is mawazo?" We know that man is body. We say muntu is mawazo. But where was this man, this muntu mawazo? The answer and explanation to this is: This man was with God of old; in the mawazo of God. This muntu was with God of old, in mawazo.
15. ule muntu alikuwa kwa Mungu namna gani? ule muntu alikuwa kwa Mungu ni hivi/ Mungu mwenyezi wa milele: Mungu wa miaka: Mungu wa byote: ni yee alikuwa na muntu wake katika mawazo/ pale alimunwaza huyu muntu/ alisema: mi nitafanya muntu/ ni pale muntu alianza kuwa katika mawazo ya Mungu/ ni pale muntu alianza kuwa katika mawazo ya Mungu/ na Mungu pa kuona ule muntu wake katika mawazo/ yake/ na Mungu alifurahi sana/ alisema: wee huju muntu wangu: siye na muntu wangu tutakuwa kintu ki- kimoja/ kimoja/ mi na muntu wangu tutasikilizana naye: tutajuana naye: tutapendana naye: tutaungana naye: tutakuwa naye kintu ki- kimoja/ kimoja/ jambo yetu bababa na bamama/ yambo yetu sana/ 15. How was this muntu with God? This muntu was with God like this: God, the Almighty and Eternal, the God of the years, the God of everything, was with his muntu in mawazo. Once he thought this muntu he said: "I shall make man." This is when man began to be in God's mawazo. And God had great joy when he saw this man in his mawazo. He said: "You, my muntu; we and my muntu shall be one thing. I and my muntu, we shall understand each other, we shall know each other, we shall love each other, we shall unite, and we shall be with him one thing." Greeting.
16. kumbe hata siye bababa na bamama kama sisi tunajua: muntu ni mwili tu hivi: huyu mwili ni nini? ni kabi- ni kabila/ huyu mwili ni kabila/ huyu mwili iko inaruka mingi/ misemea mingi/ mara ingine kama tunafwata mwili tutajisahauana: utapita tu muntu mwenzako/ wee unasema: eh: huyu anasema tshikalunda/ hiyi iko katshokwe/ eh: hiyi ile muzungu iko maungo mweupe/ eh: yee: tu: huyu ni mukete/ eh: huyu nu muluba/ eh: huyu muntu si wa kwetu/ 16. Therefore, bababa and bamama, if we know muntu is nothing but body--what is this body? It is division. This body is division. This body is fickle and talks a lot. When we follow the body we are going to forget each other. You are going to pass your fellow man [without stopping to help him]. You say: "This one talks Lunda,10 that one Tshokwe; this European has a white body; this one is a MuKete, that one a MuLuba, this guy is not from our region."
17. ndyo ile mwili yetu: inaachana na ule muntu alikuwa katika mawazo ya Mungu/ kwa sababu ule muntu alikuwa mu mawazo ya Mungu asikuwe na kabi- na kabila/ na kabila yake/ pale alikuwa kwa Mungu alikuwa na kabila? hapana/ asikuwa na kabila? ni kabila gani alikuwa kwa Mungu? jambo yetu bababa na bamama/ yambo yetu sana/ ni kabila ya muntu gani alikuwa kwa Mungu? asikuwe na kabila kwa sabababu alikuwa mawa- mawazo/ alikuwaka mawazo/ banasikilizana na Mungu: Mungu anamupenda muntu wake katika mawazo/ 17. This is our body [talking], it is different from the muntu who was in the mawazo of God. Because the muntu who was in the mawazo of God was without division, he did not belong to a tribe. When he was with God, did he belong to a tribe? No. Did he [really] not belong to a tribe? What tribe was there with God? Greeting. Which human tribe was with God? He had no tribe because he was mawazo. Yes, he was mawazo. Yes, he was mawazo. They understood each other with God. God loved his muntu in mawazo.
18. mara ingine Mungu anasema: huyu muntu wangu: mi nitamupa mawazo yangu yote ta- tatu/ 18. Again, God said: "I shall give to this muntu of mine all the three mawazo of mine."
19. huyu muntu yangu vile mi Mungu muzima wa milele/ mi nitamupa hata kakipande kimoja cha mawazo yangu ya uzi- ya uzima/ ya uzima/ huyu muntu wangu: hata minakwenda kumuweka mu dunia mu mwili: wa dunia: mimi nitaingia na uzima wa- wangu/ huyu muntu atabakia muzi- muzima/ milele na- milele/ pasipo kufa/ atabakia muzima pasipo kufa/ 19. As I am God alive eternally, I shall give this, my muntu a small piece of my thought of life-force. Of life-force. Even once I put this my muntu into a body on earth I shall enter him with my life-force. This man shall remain alive for ever, without dying. He shall be alive without dying.
20. kumbe sisi wee bababa na bamama: tuiko na uzima: juu ya Mungu/ tuiko na uzima juu ya Mungu/ Mungu ndyo anatuumba/ kama wee unatafuta uzima wako fasi ingine: hautakuwa muzima/ 20. Therefore, bababa and bamama, we have life-force because of God. It is God who created us. If you seek your life-force somewhere else, you shall not be alive.
21. Mungu anamupa muntu wake hiyi mawazo ya mpili/ anamwambia: weye muntu wangu mawazo/ hata vile mimi niko Mungu muzazi wako/ minakuzala/ na mi nitakupa uza- uzazi/ uzazi/ hata mu mwi- mu mwili/ tutaingia na ule uza- uzazi wangu/ utazala utayaza dunia/ utayaza na mbinguni/ na huyu uzazi wangu ya mimi Mungu mwenyewe/ 21. God gave his muntu this second mawazo. He told him: "You my muntu mawazo, I am God, your parent. I gave birth to you. So I give you fecundity. Fecundity. Even in your body we shall enter with my fecundity. You shall give birth and fill the world and heaven with the fecundity that came from me, from God himself."
22. mara ingine sisi bababa na bamama tunakuwa duniani: tunasahau na ile mawazo Mungu alikuwa na si katika mawazo: ile mawazo Mungu alituumbia/ tunasahau/ ile mawazo Mungu alituwazia ikingali kabisa katika mawazo yake/ 22. Again, bababa and bamama, we live on earth and forget the mawazo in which God was together with us. We forget the mawazo with which God created us, the mawazo with which God thought us and which remain strong in his thoughts.
23. angaria Mungu mwenyezi/ anasema nini? huyu muntu nitamupa wazo yangu ya tatu/ nitamupa nini? mape- mapendo/ tutapendana naye hata ku mawazo hata pale atakuja kukala mu- mu dunia/ si tutapendana naye/ mi Mungu nitapendana na huyu muntu wa dunia/ tutakuwa naye kintu ki- kimoja/ jambo yetu bababa na bamama/ jambo yetu sana/ 23. Look at God Almighty. What does he say? I shall give this muntu my third mawazo. What shall I give to him? Love. We shall love each other in the mawazo even once he goes to live on earth. I, God, and this muntu on earth, shall love one another. We shall be with him one thing. Greeting.
24. ni vile bababa na bamama/ kintu cha nguvu sana pa dunia kama sisi tunafunda umuntu wetu: tutaikala bantu ba kweli dunia/ tutakwenda kwikala bantu ba kweli mbinguni/ 24. This is how it is, bababa and bamama. A very difficult matter on earth. If we learn our umuntu we shall live as true bantu on earth and go to live as true bantu in heaven.
25. kwa sababu Mungu alituumba na mawazo/ alituumba na mawazo ya uMungu wake/ mawazo yake ya uzima yake/ mawazo yake ya uzazi wake/ mawazo wake ya mapendo yake/ Mungu alitushusha na ile mawazo pa dunia/ ile mawazo ya pa dunia: ilitupoteza/ ile utakiri ya dunia na furaha ya dunia: na mwili wa dunia: na bintu bya dunia: na utajiri ya dunia: ulitupoteza umuntu wetu ule tulikuwa nayo kwa Mungu/ 25. Because God created us with thoughts. He created us with the thoughts of His divine nature:11 His life-force, His fecundity, and His love. With these thoughts God let us down onto earth. But on earth we have lost these thoughts. The riches and the joy of this earth, the body, all the things and riches of this earth made us lose our bumuntu we had from God.
26. kumbe si bakristiani tunatafuta si njila: ya kujua umuntu wetu kabisa kabisa/ kwa sababu muntu ni: yee anaungana na Mungu/ kama wee unamupenda Mungu: usimupenda muntu mwenzako utakuwa na mapendo bababa na bamama? hapana/ kama unamuchukia mwenzako kwa kupoteza uzima wake: na we uko na uzima? hapana/ na wee unamujua Mungu ni wa uzima wa milele? hapana/ kumbe wee unaitikia we mwenyewe/ kama unapoteza wee Mungu unamuchukia mwenzako: juu ya buzazi: juu ya nini/ hata buzazi bwake bwa roho/ hata buzazi bwake bwa mwili/ unatafuta tu kumuharibisha/ batoto ba Mungu/ ba buzazi bwa Mungu/ unatafuta to kubaonyesha bintu vibaya/ kubapotesha njila/ na wee mwenyewe: unapotesha buzazi wa- wako/ kwa sababu Mungu alikupa na wee uzazi/ 26. Therefore, we Christians seek the way, the way to know our umuntu thoroughly. Because man is united with God. If you love God but not your fellow man, are you going to have love, bababa and bamama? No. If you hate your fellow man, so much so that you make him lose his life-force, are you then going to have life-force? No. And are you going to know that God is full of life in eternity? No. So follow your own insights. When you lose God you are going to hate your fellow man for his fecundity, or what not. You will seek to destroy him, his fecundity of the soul and his fecundity of the body. The children of God -- those who come from God's fecundity --you will seek to show them bad things, to make them lose the way. And you yourself are going to lose your fecundity because it was God who gave it to you.
27. ni vile mwee bababa na mwee bamama/ sisi tutafute namna ya kuwa muntu moja katika duniani/ tuwe muntu moja: sisi bakristo/ shee bantu bakristo/ shee bakristiani/ tuwe muntu moja katika juu ya bukristo yetu/ bukristo yetu: busiwezi kuwa mbali mbali/ kama kunakuwa mbali mbali: ni bukabila/ ni bukabila pale/ si njila/ hatujui bumuntu bwetu vile bwiko/ pale tunapotea/ sisi: tunatafuta sisi bababa na bamama/ umuntu wetu uwe kintu kimoja/ uwe uzima umoja/ uwe uzazi umoja/ uwe mapendo moja/ si tunatafuta bukristiani bwetu/ tuchungiane mawazo ya uzima Mungu alitupa/ tuchungiane mawazo ya uzazi Mungu alitupa/ tuchungiane mapendo Mungu alitupa/ 27. This is how it is, bababa and bamama. Let us seek to become one man on earth. We, the Christians, should be one man, united in our Christian faith. Our Christian faith cannot exist in separation. Separation means tribalism. This is not the way. [Tribalism means] we do not know our bumuntu as it is. This is where we get lost. We search, bababa and bamama, so that our bumuntu be one thing, that there be one life-force, one fecundity, and one love. We seek our Christian faith. Let us guard for each other the thought of life-force God gave us. Let us guard for each other the thought of fecundity God gave us. Let us guard for each other the love God gave us.
28. kama sisi tunaanza kuwa: mbili banaonana: huyu anaangaria huku anapita: huyu anaangaria huku anapita: twiko kintu kimoja bababa na bamama? hapana/ hatuna bakristo pamoja/ twiko sawa ule muntu: aliona mwenzake mwenye kufa chini ku njila pasipo yee kujua/ asema eh: huyu muntu anafwia/ eh: mwende mukaambie bantu ba Mungu bakuje kumuzika/ yee hana muntu? sababu gani hakumuzika? maneno hakumuwaza bumuntu wa- wake/ maneno hajue wangu umuntu ataisha tena: hapana/ maneno hajue huyu muntu anakufa ni pamoja na miye/ mwili wake na wangu biko pamoja/ na yee ni muntu: na mi niko muntu/ na yee iko na mawazo: na mi niko na mawazo/ yee ajue/ na yee alikuwa na mapendo: na mi niko na mapendo: tupendane sasa mi nimuweke fasi: asiwaze chintu/ yee anakosa byote/ anaanza kutafuta bantu bale/ anaenda kutafuta: kabila ya bakristo/ anasema ni pale banajua bantu/ bote/ ni bale banajua umuntu kabisa/ bale habana na kabila: bale habana na ndugu yabo/ bo banamupenda muntu yote vile Mungu alibaumba/ na vile Mungu anawapenda bantu yote/ banasaidiana kabisa kati yao/ habaachana/ jambo yetu bababa na bamama/ jambo yetu sana/ 28. It may be that we begin to be like this: Two people see each other. One looks to this side and goes by, the other looks to that side and goes by. Are we then still one thing, bababa and bamama? No. Then we are not together as Christians. Rather we are like that man who saw his fellow man dying on the road without recognizing him. He just told himself: "This man is really dead, go tell the people of God so they may come and bury him." Is this person not a human being? Why does he not bury him? Because he does not think of his bumuntu. Because he does not know: "My bumuntu will come to an end, too." Because he does not know this man who is dying is like me. His body and mine are alike. He is a human being, I am a human being. He has thoughts, I have thoughts. He does not know that. And further: He had love, I have love, so let us love each other now and I am going to carry him somewhere. But he thinks of nothing, he fails in everything. He begins to look for those people. He goes to look for the tribe of the Christians, telling himself: "That is where they recognize people. They are the ones who know everything about bumuntu, they have nothing to do with tribe or kinship. They love all people just as God created them and as God loves everyone. Those Christians love everyone. They help each other as much as they can, they never abandon each other." Greeting.
29. ndyo vile mawazo yetu mwee bababa na bamama leo tulitaka kukumbushanako/ 29. Bababa and bamama, these are the thoughts we wanted to remind each other of today.
30. siye kama tunaanza kuwa mawazo mbali mbali: umuntu wetu utakuwa tu kintu gani? umuntu wetu pale tu: utakuwa pasipo njila/ tutarudia mwetu mwa zamani tulikuwaka/ unaniona unasema: aah: ule/ minakuona minasema: ah: sikujui/ vile njila ya bukristiani haitakuwako/ ndyo mwee bababa na bamama/ ile mawazo tulitaka kuzungumuzako namna ya bumuntu yetu/ namna ya kutafuta bumuntu yetu bulitupotea/ 30. If we begin to be separated in thoughts what is our bumuntu going to be? Then our bumuntu will be without a way. We will return to where we were long ago. You see me and say: "Ah, this one." I see you and I say: "Ah, I do not know you." There will be no way for the Christian faith. This, bababa and bamama, is the thought we wanted to talk over with you, the nature of our bumuntu, how to search for the bumuntu we lost.
31. tunapotea bumuntu yetu mwee bababa na bamama/ tunapotea vile tulipotea: ni nani kati yenu na ndevu hiyi: na imva anajua kwa kusema: mi nilinyonya ku diziba dya mama: nilikuwa tu mu ntumbo ya mama nilifanya hivi: hakuna tena/ tunavwimba/ mara ingine ule mama tunaona tu bure/ ni vile na shee tunamuona Mungu tena pale namna ile/ pasipo kujua kule tulitoka/ 31. Bababa and bamama, we lost our bumuntu.It is as if someone among you, someone with a beard and white hair,12 would say: "I remember when I sucked the breasts13 of my mother." Or: "This is what I did when I was in her womb." There is no one who remembers. Instead we get full of ourselves and perhaps look down on our mother. This is how we look down on God, not knowing where we came from.
32. tutafuta mwee bababa na bamama: juu ya bumuntu ndyo kintu kikubwa sana katika duniani/ kama hatujui bumuntu hakuna na kule tutafika/ 32. Bababa and bamama, we search. As for bumuntu, it is a very difficult matter here on earth. If we do not know bumuntu we shall get nowhere.




Communicative Situation and Genre
The instruction represented in Text 2 was recorded before I arrived in Musonoi. Therefore, the introductory sketch of the ethnographic situation is in part fiction. It attempts to give a condensed impression of many occasions when I did participate in the mafundisho ya mukazi inne, the Thursday meeting of the group of Musonoi. It draws on actual observations and experiences and should, if successful, communicate the mood of a routine meeting. No special event, no crisis or cause for joy is needed to bring the group together for the weekly enactment of mawazo. In the course of many years, this had become part of their life, a break in the dull succession of working days. The gathering offers the opportunity to meet fellow members from other neighborhoods and to renew with them the "old thoughts" which brought the movement into being. Everybody participates, that means everybody who belongs to the Jamaa, or wants to belong to it, and who is not working the late shift, travelling, or otherwise unable to come. Thus, while never attaining attendance by all members, the weekly meeting is conceived as a gathering of the whole group, leaders, rank and file, and candidates. Without being formally regimented, these meetings follow more or less the same schema: Prayer, instruction, a hymn, perhaps another instruction, concluding prayer. Some groups emphasize singing more than others, but there is not much room for variation because the meetings should be over in about one hour, before it gets dark around 6 p.m. On cursory inspection it may seem that instructions are recited by whoever feels he has something to say. But speaking of mafundisho is not linked to any kind of special personal inspiration and longer observation shows that a small number of leading members are the recognized speakers of instruction.14
The speaker of Text 2 is one of these leaders. As one of the founders of the group at Musonoi, he has given birth through initiation to a large number of "children." He speaks with authority and his claim to teaching is uncontested. The size of the audience, the nature of the occasion, and the frame of the routine meeting make this text clearly a product of the genre mafundisho.15

Content and Style
The topic which the speaker of Text 2 chooses to discuss and through which he realizes his competence as a teacher of mawazo is the same as the one in Text 1: umuntu. But the exposition is not only much shorter, which may be a function of purely external limitations on time; it also reveals a significant shift in emphasis as far as the teaching content is concerned. This is illustrated in the following figure, in which we compare the content of Text 2 with our theoretical catalog.


Topics Represented in Text 2

Discovery 1-11


thought-man 15, 17


three thoughts 18-22

dual nature 16

destination of man 25-32

Realization: (?) 27


Figure 4: Divisions of content in Text 2


Roughly one-third (paragraphs 1-11) of Text 2 is devoted to "discovery," that is, to reflections on the idea of umuntu placed in the concrete context of experiences shared by every candidate to the movement. Then follows a brief section introducing the concept of mawazo, not through logical derivation from a root concept (as, for instance in Text 1) but in a mythical account of the origin of thought-man (paragraphs 13-14, and 17). The three great thoughts are introduced in the same general sequence as in Text 1 (paragraphs 18-22), though not differentiated along the lines of an ontological body-soul dualism. The latter is alluded to in paragraph 16, where the body is shown to be the source of divisiveness among men. Throughout Text 2, the two elements of human nature are expressed as mwili and mawazo (e.g., paragraph 14), but they are in no way systematically developed along the taxonomic distinctions of mwili versus roho which significantly determined the shape of Text 1. In paragraph 24, Text 2 seems to end in a concluding formula. Up to that point each of the three thoughts has briefly been treated and, except for some application, one would expect the speaker to terminate his instruction. Instead, he continues in what at first looks like a rambling summary of the discovery section. This text is not the most elegantly construed mafundisho. The speaker tends to return earlier points or examples (he does this in paragraphs 10, 16 and again in 28 and 30). But such unevenness of execution should not lead one to overlook that the transition between paragraphs 23 and 25, leaving out the interjected formula in paragraph 24, is in fact an important one. In paragraph 23, God still speaks to thought-man, to man before creation. In paragraph 25, the speaker invokes man's creation, his descent on earth, and his fall.
This leads us to consider the overall stylistic scheme of the text. The author was at the time when the recording was made probably the most influential leader in the Kolwezi area. He had synthesized his experience with and through the Jamaa in what we may call a mythical-historical style. Text 2 offers ample evidence for that interpretation, evidence which is all the more impressive since it is contained in an instruction which shares genre and topic with Text 1. Further and more extensive documentation for an almost pure form of that mythical-historical style will be given in Text 3, when we comment on the same speaker's instruction about the creation of the angels. But we may already assemble some of the lexical and structural indicators revealing a significant and systematic difference between the logical-moral and mythical historical styles.
We anticipate the results of that analysis and render the structural organization of Text 2 in the following schema (see Figure 5) which is again construed along a horizontal axis indicating narrative sequence and a vertical axis marking levels of discourse.













Figure 5: Narrative structures of Text 2


Judging on first appearances, Texts 1 and 2 seem to follow roughly the same scheme. Both consist of a sizeable introductory section, followed by a systematic treatment of umuntu; both show an interdigitation of segments or of clusters of segments, which we interpret as changes between levels of discourse. However, these resemblances turn out to be largely formal as soon as one examines the content of the relationships we distinguished as sequences and levels. This is what we try to indicate by choosing new and different labels in Figure 5 to identify the dimensions of Text 2.
Along the horizontal axis the segments of Text 2 are linked by sequential (narrative), not taxonomic, principles. In the first major section, "discovery" (paragraphs 1-8), the speaker evokes a series of mifano, exemplary situations, which have the purpose of illustrating practical, concrete experiences of what it means to be human.
The second major section, labelled "account" (paragraphs 15-28) is organized along a sequence of successive origins: of thought-man and unity (paragraph 15), of the body and diversity (paragraph 16), of man's nature (paragraph 18), of each of the three thoughts (paragraphs 19-23), and of visible man on earth and the loss of umuntu (paragraph 25). Relationships between source and results are not conceived as logical derivations, as in Text 1, but as successive actions and interactions: God and thought-man, God and man. Paragraph 25 is separated from the preceding parts of that section by yet another temporal notion; the cut marks the history of the three thoughts before and after creation. There remains some uncertainty whether this account of beginnings should be located on the theological or the mythological levels of Jamaa doctrine,16 or perhaps on both, but it is clear that it exhibits the concern and ways of arguing that are characteristic of the mythical-historical style.
The concluding section of Text 2 resumes the pattern of discovery and in fact refers to one of the examples used at the beginning (see paragraphs 28 and 4). It thus appears simply as a resumption of the initial theme. More of a problem is posed by a short passage (paragraph 12-14) which we separated from the two main sections. There the speaker recalls questions regarding the nature of man. Grammatically it would be possible that with the first person plural in the phrase "we answered" (paragraph 13) he simply refers to his own person. But the content of the dialogue combined with external evidence suggests that the passage recalls formulae used in the ritual interrogation of candidates about to be introduced to the first degree of Jamaa initiation. If our interpretation is correct, these segments would not at all disturb the transition between the two major portions of Text 2. On the contrary, they would accurately reflect Jamaa ideas of the acquisition of doctrinal knowledge as a process of realizing mawazo through common search, initiation, and shared knowledge.
Two levels can be distinguished along the horizontal axis. We choose the label "recall" for the first one to emphasize that the speaker's evocations of Jamaa experience and doctrine are distinctly temporal. By this we mean that the situations and doctrinal tenets which serve as point of departure in creating the rhetoric appeal of this instruction are all located in some time, in a proximity to origins whose nature remains to be determined. This, by the way, is true also of the exemplary stories in the first section. Not only are these mifano introduced in the past tense (e.g., tuliona, we saw, in paragraphs 4 and 6), but the speaker locates them in the social past of his audience: they happened "back home in our village" (paragraph 4).
The second level of discourse was called "realization." It groups the segments in which the speaker relates paradigmatic situations or events, all of them situated in the past, to the present state of man and of the world in which he lives. The point is that this is done not as moral application of norms to action but as a realization of models. These may be depicted simply as examples, other times as ultimate causes, and then again as paradigmatic mythical events. This observation will be confirmed and clarified when we now examine some of the semantic indicators for the mythical-historical style.
One of the most prominent features we expect to find in the mythical-historical scheme are terms connoting cosmological concepts: origins, heaven and earth, and the metaphor of the road, the believer's travels through time. Text 2 identifies the time in which God lives as eternity (milele; see paragraphs 15, 19), the time of thought-man as "the days of old" (tangu zamani; paragraph 14), and the lost origins of man as the place from whence he came (kule alitoka; see paragraphs 11 and 31). Heaven and earth are viewed in a spatial relationship; when God creates he "lowers" man unto earth (paragraph 25). Because everything that constitutes man has its origin in the past, his present failures and limitations are explained not as infractions of a code of morals (or at least not primarily so), but as a loss, often a loss of memory, a failure to recall or to note. These notions pervade Text 2 in such terms or their derivatives as kupotea, to lose (paragraphs 1, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31), kusahau, to forget (paragraphs 1, 11, 16, 22), and kukosa or kushindwa kujua, fail to know (paragraphs 5, 9, 11, 28).
Characteristically, those exhortations and phrases expressing, or appealing to, moral obligation which we found to be prominent in Text 1 are absent in this instruction. Transitions between the levels of recall and of realization are usually expressed in statements of fact, e.g., "therefore we know . . ." (kumbe tunajua, paragraph 16), "therefore we have . . ." (kumbe twiko, paragraph 20), "this is because . . ." (sababu, maneno, paragraphs 17, 28), or simply "this is how it is" (ni vile, paragraphs 24, 27, 29, 319). The same "aura of factuality," to borrow a term from Clifford Geertz, surrounds an expression which appears almost as frequently as in Text 1: kutafuta, to search. Nowhere in Text 2 is it made an existential/ontological attribute of man's nature. Man is not the seeker "as such"; he searches for what was lost, for umuntu, for the way (e.g., paragraph 26), and for Christianity (e.g., paragraph 27). In any case, kutafuta always occurs with an object, it always is directed towards a goal or thing (e.g., paragraph 7).
In this context, the notion of "the way" (njia) deserves special attention. With one exception, to be discussed below, the term occurs in this instruction in two contexts or connotations, both of which point to Jamaa concepts of initiation. In paragraphs 3 and 26, "the way" is identified with the knowledge of umuntu, that is, with Jamaa doctrine and its gradual acquisition symbolized in the "three ways" of the ritual of initiation. In paragraph 39, njia evokes a notion of progress and growth that is attained in the Jamaa, which may be lost, though, if it is not pursued in unity. In that case, it may throw the followers back "to where we came from," a phrase expressed in a subtle combination of temporal and local markers in which the speaker artfully rejoins the conclusions of his mafundisho to its point of departure, to experiences "back home in our village" (see paragraph 4).
Regarding the use of rhetoric devices, the speaker employs greeting and sentence and/or word completion much in the same way as the author of Text 1. We should note, however, a tendency to intensify or extend contacts with the audience. Frequently, Baba Binga repeats the responses of his listeners (e.g., in paragraphs 5, 7, 14). More significant are differences in the use of mifano. In Text 1 their functions remained somewhat unclear; at times they appeared as plans or projects, rather than examples (in fact, this led us to distinguish "organization" as a level of discourse). In Text 2 they are undoubtedly construed and used as concrete exemplifications. Not only their content (situations in village life) but also their form definitely point back to the traditional context. In paragraph 8, for instance, we see the influence of the traditional device of confronting one's audience with a riddle: "How many people passed on the road?" Then follow the wrong and the correct answers, and the segment ends with a condensed allegory in which njia serves as a metaphor of the common toils of married life: "Husband and wife, they pass on the road from morning to evening."

Socio-Cultural Context
No communicative event and hence no text exists in a vacuum. Yet there may be differences in the degrees to which a speaker addresses himself to problems, situations, and tasks the Jamaa faces in relating to its socio-cultural environment. On that score, Text 2 is undoubtedly in sharp contrast to the first document. It expresses the kind of closedness, self-centered otherworldliness, of which the Jamaa in the Kolwezi area was often accused. The author of Text 1 repeats ad nauseam his moral appeal to the audience: tunapashwa, we must, we are obliged. In his obsession with kutafuta he depicts man individually, and the Jamaa as a group, collectively, as permanently self-transcending, full of projects for social practice. Baba Binga, the author of the second text, calmly states mythical and historical facts. At one point he succinctly expresses the purpose of his instruction: kukumbushana, to make each other think, remember (paragraph 29; the expression, by the way, has its negative counterpart in kujisahauna, a complex reflexive and at the same time reciprocal derivation, roughly "to make each other forget one's self," see paragraph 16). The image is that of a group sharing in a common possession (perhaps lost, but to be found again), and it implies a definition of Jamaa as "those who guard mawazo." Allusions to the ritual of initiation (paragraphs 12-14) further contribute to the inward, group-centred character of Text 2.
Not only is Baba Binga looking inward, he also appears to be fixed on the past, not just the mythical past but also a social past he shares with most of his listeners. In his examples he recalls the life of Christians in rural Kasai: small groups in populous villages and towns often led by laymen in charge of communal devotions that had to substitute for the liturgy whenever the missionaries could not make it to the village (see paragraph 4). In these exemplary stories, Christians are contrasted to pagans as those who "recognize" human beings beyond the limits of their kingroup or village. A similar notion is expressed in the only other passage directly addressed to a social problem. There the speaker traces tribalism and racism to the divisive nature of the human body (paragraph 16). But notice that this is stated with a good deal of resignation, as a matter of fact rather than as a challenge. One is tempted, by the way, to seek a similar passive and fatalistic attitude behind the descriptions of man's fall. The expression used is "mawazo . . . ilitupoteza, umuntu . . . ilitupoteza" (paragraph 25), literally "mawazo and umuntu lost us." This curious inversion of subject and object is idiomatic Swahili, not a "typical" feature of "Bantu thought" (mis)interpreted by colonials as inability or unwillingness to assume personal responsibility.17
Finally, there is a distinct contrast in the way the two leaders introduce Christianity into their teachings. Where the first speaker invokes the founder of the church, his apostles, and the present clerical hierarchy and where he outlines ways in which the Jamaa should integrate into that institution, the author of Text 2 speaks only of bakristiani, Christians, and bukristiani, the abstract noun signifying Christianity as an idea, which he then identifies with the three thoughts and therefore with umuntu (paragraph 27). Thus the circle closes, and encloses, the followers of the Jamaa in their own thoughts. The threat of an internal schism (alluded to in paragraph 26) becomes more important than the challenge of a hostile outside world.


1 Recorded, probably in 1965, by Fr. Bertien Peeraer at the parish hall in Musonoi.
2 This is what I hear on the tape; the translation assumes that the verb is -nyima, to withhold (see Lenselaer 1983:148).
3 In this translation we use bumuntu although the speaker is not consistent and at times chooses the alternative form umuntu. In Shaba/Katanga Swahili th u- and bu- prefixes may be used interchangeably.
4 It is not quite clear who is meant by "he". The context points to a passerby.
5 Our translation is abbreviated. In the original the speaker goes into a rapid flow of permutations, changing prefixes and infixes, thus giving a vivid rhetoric expression to the hurried and confused reactions of people who do not want to get involved.
6 The term bababa is here simply translated as "men." The context indicates that the speaker is using the polite form current in Shaba/Katanga Swahili, not the obligatory term of address in Jamaa language.
7 This translation assumes that the -sima in the orginal is a variant of -zima, to put out or away.
8 This is a short translation of two awkward phrases (one in the plural, the other in the singular) introducing a question in the form of a riddle.
9 The meaning of anakutola is not quite clear; possibly it is the conversive form of anakuta. In that case it would imply the opposite of meeting or greeting someone, perhaps "he does not stop to look carefully."
10 In the form tshi-ka-lunda, two prefixes are compounded; tshi- ( = ki- ) as the the common prefix for languages, and ka-, singular of the ka-/tu- class used in several Bantu languages of the region (e.g., Luba, Tshokwe), but not in Standard Swahili. Hence kabila, "tribe", may have a plural form, tu-bila. The same occurs in several other curiosities of Shaba/Katanga Swahili, especially with loanwords in which a syllable ka is interpreted as a prefix. Thus, tu-piteni is a plural of ka-piteni, "foremen" (from Portuguese capita, or English captain); ka-mat is the singular of tu-mat, "tomatoes", and so forth.
11 This is one of the contexts in which the concepts of umuntu, "human nature", and umungu, "divine nature", seem to shade into each other. This occurs frequently as a "mistake" based, probably, on the phonological similarity of the two terms. But it also invites speculation about a structural semantic similarity revealing in effect an equivalence of the doctrines of God and Man in Jamaa teaching.
12 Imva equals mvi in East Coast Swahili.
13 The current word in Shaba/Katanga Swahili for milk and for breast is maziba (see East Coast ziwa, plural ma-ziwa). The prefix ma- is interpreted as the plural form of the di-/ma- class (cf. van Avermaet and Mbuya 1954:105), hence diziba, one breast.
14 For a more detailed description, see Fabian 1971:83-84.
15 On genres of Jamaa discourse see Fabian 1974, reprinted in 1991: chap. 3.
16 See on this Fabian 1971:161).
17 Another often cited example would be phrase a cook might use when he dropped a plate: "sahani ilinipasuka," literally "the plate broke on me."


Fabian, Johannes. (1969). An African Gnosis: For a Reconsideration of an Authoritative Definition. History of Religions 9: 42-58.
Fabian, Johannes. (1971). Jamaa: A Charismatic Movement in Katanga. Evanston: Northwestern University press. (234 pp.)
Fabian, Johannes. (1973). Kazi: Conceptualizations of Labor in a Charismatic Movement among Swahili-speaking Workers. Cahiers d`études africaines 13: 293-325.
Fabian, Johannes. (1974). Genres in an emerging tradition: An approach to religious communication. In: A.W. Eister (ed.), Changing perspectives in the scientific study of religion. New York: Wiley Interscience. 249-272.
Fabian, Johannes. (1975). Taxonomy and ideology: On the boundaries of concept classification. In: M. Dale Kinkade, Kenneth L. Hale and Oswald Werner (eds.), Linguistics and anthropology: In honor of C.F. Vögelin. Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press. 183-197.
Fabian, Johannes. (1977). Lore and doctrine: Some observations on story-telling in the Jamaa movement. Cahiers d`études africaines 17: 307-329.
Fabian, Johannes. (1991). Time and the Work of Anthropology: Critical Essays 1971-1991. Chur: Harwood Academic Publishers.
Fabian, Johannes. (1994). Jamaa: A Charismatic Movement Revisited. In Thomas D. Blakely, Walter E. A. van Beek and Dennis L. Thomson (eds.), Religion in Africa. Experience and Expression. London: James Currey/ Portsmout, N.H.: Heineman. 257-74.
Lenselaer, Alphonse. (1983). Dictionnaire Swahili-Français. Paris: Karthala.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. (1967). Structural Anthropology. Garden City, N. J.: Doubleday.
Van Avermaet, E. and B. Mbuya. (1954). Dictionnaire Kiluba-Français. Tervuren: Musée Royal du Congo Belge.


[Text 1: Of man (1)]

[Text 2: Of man (2)]

[Text 3: Of angels ] - to appear

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Deposited at APS: 16 May 2003
Revisions: 10 July 2003 (anchor added in Figure 5, italics added in note 12, 'Fabian 1996b' changed to 'Fabian 1996' in References, hyperlinks added to Text 3: Of angels)
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