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Article

Allen J. Fromherz

second Moroccan caliph of the Almohad (Muʾminid) dynasty (r. 1163–1184), was a great patron of philosophy and architecture, a defensive leader, and statesman. The beginning of his reign was rocked by conflict over succession. His father, ʿAbd al-Muʾmin, had designated Muhammad, the older brother of a different mother as his successor. Muhammad was in power from a few weeks to a few months. The sources differ on the exact length of his reign.

However it was clear from the beginning that Muhmmad did not have the ambition or the ability to lead the vast administrative and military apparatus his father had created ʿAbu Yaʿqub Yusuf had the support of a powerful woman his mother It seems this formidable woman and her other son the powerful vizier Abu Hafs ʿUmar conspired to elevate ʿAbu Yaʿqub Yusuf as caliph ʿUmar claimed that the caliph ʿAbd al Muʾmin had declared to him ...

Article

James H. Sweet

was born around 1710 in the Mahi region of the modern-day West African country of Benin. Álvares spent his youth in a Vodou community dedicated to the earth spirit Sakpata. Álvares’s parents, Afnaje and Oconon, held positions of leadership in this community, a status Domingos inherited from them. Álvares rose to prominence in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world after being enslaved in Africa, transported to colonial Brazil, and eventually prosecuted by the Portuguese Inquisition in Lisbon.

During the late 1720s, Álvares experienced first-hand the rise of the Dahomean Empire under the leadership of Agaja (c. 1673–1740), the ruling monarch from 1718 to 1740 As King Agaja s military expanded into new territories Álvares witnessed the death and displacement of countless refugees In the midst of this crisis Álvares s parents died and he took over leadership of their healing community Like maroon communities in the Americas Álvares s village ...

Article

Christine D. Baker

fifth Fatimid caliph of Egypt, was the first of the Fatimid caliphs to begin his rule in the newly founded Fatimid capital in Cairo. Born in Mahdiyya in North Africa, he traveled to Cairo in 974 with the Fatimid court when his father, the fourth Fatimid Caliph al-Muʿizz, moved the Fatimid capital from the Maghrib to Egypt. His full name was Al-ʿAziz billah, Nizar Abu Mansur.

Al-ʿAziz became the Fatimid caliph in 975 but, as the third son of al-Muʿizz, his succession was far from assumed. Al-Muʿizz’s oldest son, Tamim, had been passed over for the succession because he was suspected of intriguing against his father with dissident members of the Fatimid court. Al-Muʿizz’s second son, ʿAbdullah, was the favored heir. But ʿAbdullah died unexpectedly in 975 and al-Muʿizz formally recognized al-ʿAziz as his successor. Al-ʿAziz came to power in December 975 when he gave the khutba Friday sermon ...

Article

Alexander Bedward was born in Matilda's Corner, Saint Andrew Parish, in southeastern Jamaica. He grew up in August Town, on the Hope River in Saint Andrew. Nothing is known about his father, but his mother was supposedly a healer. Bedward could not write, and he read haltingly because of borderline literacy. Apart from the years 1883 to 1885, when he was a migrant laborer in Colón, a seaport on the Isthmus of Panama, Bedward worked until 1891 on the Mona sugar estate in Saint Andrew. He was a foreman, laborer, and cooper (a repairman of wooden casks or tubs) on the estate, from which he also leased land.

Article

Kwasi Konadu

Ghanaian indigenous healer and blacksmith, was born in 1913, three years after an outbreak of yellow fever in the Gold Coast colony (present-day Ghana), to Yaw Badu of Nkoranza and Akosua Toa, into a Bono (Akan) family in Takyiman. Nana Donkor’s early years and socialization in a family of well-respected healers and blacksmiths were significant to his eventual vocation, for he engaged matters of spirituality and healing from a very early age, and his family nurtured and supported those interests.

Kofi Donkor’s path as a prominent healer was suggested by the very circumstances of his birth. After Kofi Donkor’s two elder sisters were born, the next five children died shortly after birth. This troubled Yaw Badu and Akosua Toa greatly, and so they consulted an obosom (pl. abosom a spiritual agent often viewed as a child of the Akan Creator Both parents made several ritual sacrifices and as ...

Article

Werner Graebner

taarab singer, drummer, and healer, was born in urban Zanzibar. Her parents had migrated to the islands from the Kilwa area of Tanzania on the East African mainland. She is better known as Bi Kidude. Some controversy surrounds Kidude’s birthdate; considering all evidence, the latest she could have been born is around 1920. Growing up in suburban Zanzibar’s Ng’ambo area, she showed interest from a young age in taarab song, a genre of poetry sung to musical accompaniment developed in nineteeth- century Zanzibar. One of her uncles, Buda Suwedi, was a member of Siti Bint Saadi’s group, then the most popular singer in Zanzibar. Kidude attended night rehearsals at Saadi’s place, pretending to sleep in a corner or on the outside baraza bench, soaking up the songs, which still form her main repertoire today.

When Kidude was in her teens, dhows traditional Arab sailboats from all over the ...

Article

Kenyan poet and healer, was born in Mombasa, Kenya. He is the older brother of Abdilatif Abdalla and a cousin of the famous taarab singer Juma Bhalo, who recorded song versions of many of Ahmad Nassir’s poems. Nassir’s earliest poems were published in the newspaper Sauti ya Pwani. His poems next were anthologized by Lyndon Harries in Poems from Kenya (1966) . Nassir’s second anthology, Malenga wa Mvita: Diwani wa Ustadh Bhalo (1971) , was awarded the Kenyatta Prize for Literature, Kenya’s major literary award, in 1972. Nassir’s poetry is deeply religious and philosophical. While both of the anthologies of his poems contain poems on religious topics, his religious and philosophical concerns are most fully explored in his 457-verse narrative poem on moral virtue, Utenzi wa Mtu ni Utu (1979) . This work has been analyzed in detail by Kai Kresse who ...

Article

Ryan Ronnenberg

Tanzanian spirit medium, mganga (traditional doctor), political and military leader, and revolutionary, was likely born in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He was a central figure in the 1905 Maji Maji uprising against German colonial forces in southeastern Tanganyika. Most famously, Kinyikitile was responsible for the introduction of maji, or “water,” war medicine, which rendered the blessed impervious to bullets. The Maji Maji conflict itself, owing in no small part to its inclusion of different ethnic and linguistic groups at a very early date, has been the subject of intense interest by nationalist historians, and an appreciation of Kinjikitile’s significance to Tanzania must discern the extent to which he fits the role of proto-nationalist hero.

Kinjikitile may have found fertile ground for his teachings among turn of the century southern Tanganyikan peoples who generally concurred with his assertions of a kind of spiritual hierarchy including a creator ...

Article

Anne Waliaula

revered Tanzanian Maasai laibon (prophet, diviner, healer, and ritual expert; an alternate form of his name is Mbatian), was the son of another famous Maasai laibon, Supeet, son of Kidongoi. Mbatiany’s grandfather Kidongoi is said to be the first laibon, an orphaned child who was raised by the Laiser clan of the Maasai, only to be found to possess extraordinary divination and healing power. Thus, Mbatiany’s laibon lineage began with the Kidongoi family who later formed their own clan or group of families known as the Inkidongi clan The sons of Kidongoi were Lesikireshu Sitonik and Supeet Supeet then became the father to Mbatiany Mako and Neelyang Very little is known about the other children of Supeet and even the female in Mbatiany s life The known sons of Mbatiany are Senteu Sendeyo and Lenana Olonana Other children are not mentioned probably because they did not have ...

Article

Baptiste Bonnefoy

was born in Santiago, Chile, sometime during the 1740s, the illegitimate son of María Luisa Morales and an unknown father. Morales was known as a pardo, a designation commonly applied in eighteenth-century Chile to free persons of color.

During the 1750s, Morales entered the artillery unit of Santiago’s urban black militia, a group responsible for the night patrol of the streets of the city and the protection of its shops and warehouses. In the militia he became acquainted with the pardo captains Mariano Barros (1749–1822), Gregorio Arenas (1727–1792), and Juan de Dios Portillo (1746–1813 He also set up shop as a barber a type of informal medical practitioner without official certification Barbers typically bled their patients pulled teeth and treated the widespread infectious diseases that particularly plagued the poorest segments of the population Only those of European descent were legally permitted to obtain ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

South African healer and prophet, was born to a prominent South African Xhosa-speaking family in the late eighteenth century. His father was an important leader under the authority of Chuief Ngqika within the larger Xhosa community. His mother, on the other hand, was driven from her husband’s home on the grounds that she had used supernatural power to harm others. Ntsikana grew up in a turbulent time, as the Dutch East Indian Company’s Cape Colony enclave (part of present-day South Africa) made inroads into the Great Fish River region. Occasional wars between Boer settlers and Xhosa, along with struggles between Ngqika and some other Xhosa rivals, posed difficulties. British forces proved more devastating once the British government definitively occupied the Cape Colony in 1806. The ravages of allied British and African forces (including Ngqika) against those Xhosa living west of the Great Fish River led to further upheaval.

It ...

Article

Jean-Pierre Chrétien

Roman Catholic bishop of Bujumbura, Burundi (1959–1989), was the son of Pierre Ntibibabaje, a Tutsi deputy-chief in the north of Buyogoma, and Marguerite Ntawiha. Buyogoma, in the east of Burundi, had experienced the first wave of conversion to Catholicism at the beginning of the twentieth century. Prince Kiraranganya was the first chief baptized there. After primary school and catechism in the parish of Rusengo, a branch of Muyaga that became a mission in 1923, Ntuyahaga was baptized in 1924 and entered the minor seminary in Mugera in 1926, then the major seminary in Rwanda (in Kabagayi, then in Nyakibanda) in 1933. He was ordained a priestin Gitega in 1941.

After two years of teaching in the seminary of Mugera, he officiated in different parishes until 1954 notably in that of Makebuko where he was the parish priest for three years Then he left to study ...

Article

Sumaiya Hamdani

North African judge and author, was born sometime around the turn of the tenth century CE (or early 900s), into a North African Sunni family residing in what is today Tunisia, and yet he rose to become the preeminent author and legal authority for a Shia dynasty that established itself in North Africa in 909 and eventually ruled an empire that included Egypt, Syria, and Arabia until 1171. His full name was Al-Qadi (or judge) Abu Hanifa al-Nuʿman (first name) b. (son of) Muhammad b. Mansur b. Ahmad b. Hayyun al-Tamimi (tribal name).

Although al-Nuʿman was prolific and prominent, extremely little is known of his family and life before he joined the service of this Shiite dynasty, the Fatimids, in 925. A North African biographical dictionary from a slightly later period notes that his father Muhammad was among the few Sunni Muslim ulama or religious scholars of North ...

Article

Egyptian politician and educator, was born in Alexandria on 26 April 1888 to a middle-class family. His father was an Egyptian accountant for the Khedivial mail, and his mother, Hanifa, was of Turkish origin. He had two brothers and a sister. Nuqrashi’s class status elevated following his 1934 marriage to ʿAliya Zaki, the daughter of a Turkish judge who belonged to the traditional Turkish elite. Nuqrashi attended primary school at the French Valo School and al-ʿUrwa al-Wuthqa in the Jumruk county; at both schools, he achieved excellent grades. In 1903 he started his high school studies at Raʾs al-Tīn of Alexandria, where he focused on literature and completed his studies with distinction in 1906 At the age of nineteen he moved to Cairo to attend the teacher training college In Cairo he met such prominent figures as Ahmad Mahir and Muhammad Amin Lutfi and was introduced to new ideas ...

Article

Gloria Chuku

omu (female monarch) and trader, was born in the nineteenth century in the city of Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria. Her father was Isagba Okwuona of Ogbendida village, Onitsha, and her mother was Ngbokwa Amasinwa Okigbo of nearby Ojoto. Nwagboka married Uzoka Egwuatu, an Igala immigrant from Ogbeotu village, Onitsha. While Nwagboka’s husband maintained two residences, one at Igala and another in Onitsha, she lived in Onitsha with her son, Egwuatu. Nwagboka started her trading career as an apprentice, but later became a successful trader herself due to her business acumen and her Igala connections, through which she bought elephant tusks, which she sold to European traders. Ivory was a very lucrative trade at the time, in high demand both locally and overseas. It was estimated that, in two consignments of ivory Nwagboka shipped overseas, she made £10,000. She gave some of the proceeds to Obi king Anazonwu 1823 1899 ...

Article

Douglas H. Johnson

a Nuer prophet from the Sudan who was also known as Nyakolang Ket, was the daughter of and successor to Kolang Ket, a Jagei Nuer prophet. She was remarkable for being one of the few female spiritual leaders of the Nuer to rise to prominence, and to achieve a regional influence beyond her immediate community. Unlike other, male prophets of the time, she avoided confrontation with the colonial government and concentrated her efforts on both the spiritual and physical well-being of her people.

There were numerous prophets among the Western Nuer at the end of the nineteenth century each claiming to speak with the voice of a different divinity In the 1890s Kolang Ket announced he was seized by a divinity named Maani after the Muslim Mahdi who had overthrown the Egyptian regime in the Northern Sudan and by the turn of the century he established himself as the leading ...

Article

Juan Angola Maconde

known for her knowledge of natural medicine and her work as a midwife, was born on 2 August 1920 at Tocaña, a community in the town of Coroico, the largest community of Afro-descendants in the Yungas region of La Paz, Bolivia. As one of the oldest members of the community, Pinedo Pedrero was often consulted by those collecting oral history of life in the region before the agrarian reforms of 1952, in which the revolutionary government redistributed land and ended forced labor.

In Tocaña and the surrounding communities Pinedo Pedrero gained a reputation in her village of Coroico for healing and midwifery by the 1960s when she was in her forties For generations Tocaña s families sought her advice on healthcare matters and to remedy relieve and console those suffering from physical emotional or spiritual ailments The fields were her pharmacy She collected medicinal herbs and depending on the ...

Article

Carlos Parra

Six officially recognized saints lived in colonial Peru during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: Toribio de Mogrovejo (1538–1606), second archbishop of Lima and defender of the Indians; Francisco Solano (1549–1619), a Franciscan missionary, musician, and evangelizer of the South; Rosa de Lima (1586–1617), a tertiary of the Order of Preachers, the first native in the New World to be canonized; Juan Macías (1585–1645), a lay brother of the same order, servant of the poor; Ana de los Ángeles Monteagudo (1602–1686), a mystic nun of a cloistered convent in Arequipa; and Martín de Porres. In the context of this generation of saints, Martín is distinctive for being the first mulatto (of African and European descent) ever to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

De Porres was born in Lima on December 9, 1579, the natural son of Juan ...

Article

Gabriela dos Reis Sampaio

was one of the most important and notorious spiritual leaders in nineteenth-century Brazil. Born to an African mother in Rio de Janeiro, Rosa worked as a tailor and carriage driver before becoming the great “Pai Quibombo.” Rosa grew up in Rio, capital of the Brazilian Empire (1822–1889 among the city s large population of enslaved and free people of African descent His house became a place where mostly nonwhite members of Rio s working poor looked for help with problems especially those related to money love and illness but Juca as he was commonly known was no stranger to many rich white men and women looking for advice spells and medicines Rosa s mother Joana Maria da Rosa likely taught her son many of the religious rituals he conducted at his house in Rio but he also traveled to Bahia in the northeast of Brazil where he certainly ...

Article

Gabrielle Lynch

Kenyan spiritual and military leader (orkoiyot), was born around 1860 in Nandi. Koitalel was the youngest son of Kimnyole arap Turukat, an orkoiyot who could trace his lineage to the first unifying leader of the Nandi. Little is known of Koitalel’s maternal lineage or childhood, except that his father had over forty wives and that his family was relatively wealthy. As an adult, Koitalel also had around forty wives and lived at Kamng’etuny near Nandi Hills, where he led a prolonged resistance against British colonialism.

The position of orkoiik (pl.) refers to men with powers of divination, omen interpretation, prophecy, and medicine. These powers are inherited along clan lines, but are dependent on reputation. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century the orkoiik’s influence was limited to relatively small areas. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, a family of laibons (Maasai spiritual leaders) were welcomed and absorbed as orkoiik ...