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Article

Christopher Wise

Malian diplomat, ethnographer, devout Muslim, and defender of traditional African culture, was born in 1901 in Bandiagara, Mali, capital of the Toucouleur Empire of the Macina Fulani, which was founded by the Tidjaniya jihadist al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. At the time of Bâ’s birth, the French had been in control of Bandiagara for nearly a decade. His father, Hampâté, a Fulani militant from Fakala, died two years after Bâ was born. His mother, Kadidja Pâté, was the daughter of Pâté Poullou, a close personal companion of al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. After her husband’s death, Kadidja remarried Tidjani Amadou Ali Thiam, a Toucouleur Fulani and Louta chief, who became Bâ’s adoptive father. At an early age, Bâ became intimate with Tierno Bokar Tall, the renowned “sage of Bandiagara,” who was his lifelong teacher, spiritual guide, and personal mentor. In 1912 Bâ was enrolled in the French colonialist School of the Hostages remaining ...

Article

Dickson D. Jr. Bruce

Born in Michigan, James D. Corrothers was raised in the predominantly white community of South Haven by his paternal grandfather, a man of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish ancestry. He moved to Muskegon at age fourteen, supporting himself and his grandfather. Shortly thereafter he moved to Indiana, then to Springfield, Ohio, working as a laborer. There, in his teens, he began his literary career, publishing a poem, “The Deserted School House”, in the local newspaper.

Corrothers's literary career received a boost when, at eighteen, he relocated to Chicago. Working in a white barber shop, he met journalist-reformer Henry Demarest Lloyd and showed him some poems. Lloyd arranged for their publication in the Chicago Tribune, getting Corrothers a custodial job in the Tribune offices Corrothers was soon asked to do an article on Chicago s African American elite He was chagrined when the story appeared rewritten by a white reporter ...

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

Douglas H. Johnson

Nuer prophet, was the son of and successor to the nineteenth-century prophet Deng Laka. Deng Laka was a Dinka refugee living among the Gaawar Nuer along the Zeraf Valley in what is now Jonglei state, South Sudan, in the mid-nineteenth century. His mother and sisters were sold into slavery by the slavers’ Gaawar ally, Nuaar Mer. Deng Laka, proclaiming seizure by the divinity Diu, organized a force of other disaffected Nuer, defeated and killed Nuaar Mer, and became the dominant leader of the Nuer in the Zeraf Valley. He was usually successful in raids against his southern Dinka neighbors, but he also attracted Dinka young men as his followers and married several Dinka wives. He defeated an invading Mahdist army in 1896, but his relations with the incoming Anglo-Egyptian government at the beginning of the twentieth century, while wary, were peaceful.

On Deng Laka’s death in 1907 his ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

founder and leader of a Nigeria-based Christian sect known as the Cherubim and Seraphim Society, was born Abiodun Akinsowon in Porto Novo, Benin. She was the daughter of a Saro family with kin and business connections along the West African coast. Her father, Rev. B. A. Akinsowon, was pastor of a church in Porto Novo, where he also had commercial activities. Baptized into the Anglican Church in Lagos, Abiodun moved between Porto Novo, Ibadan, and Lagos and attended elementary school in Lagos until 1920. Though she had some training as a seamstress, she stayed with an aunt who was a market woman in Lagos and joined her as a trader.

Generally referred to as Abiodun, in 1925 she watched a Catholic religious procession in Lagos and fell into a trance that lasted for seven days She remained in a coma until Moses Orimolade Tunolase arrived he already had a ...

Article

Sterling Stuckey

folklorist and minister, was born in Society Hill, South Carolina, the son of Laurence Faulkner, a merchant and postmaster, and Hannah Josephine Doby, a midwife. The decade of his birth and earliest development was one of violent repression of blacks across the South, during which the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, propounded its “separate but equal” doctrine. The fact that both parents were enterprising contributed to a sense of security in William despite the brutal reality of night riders and Klansmen roaming the countryside. In addition, religion was a shield against hardship and a source of hope in his life. Raised in a Christian household, by age six he had taken John the Baptist as his hero.

By age nine, with the migration to Society Hill of the former slave and storyteller Simon Brown Faulkner was exposed to the artistic and spiritual qualities of ...

Article

Hussein Ahmed

Ethiopian clairvoyant, was a native of Werre Himeno in west-central Wello, north Ethiopia. Shaykh Husayn was a clairvoyant of wide reputation who is said to have prophesied the occurrence of a number of events in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Not much is known about his early life and upbringing except that he received a limited amount of traditional Islamic education in various localities under several teachers. One can assume that he was informally introduced to the world of mysticism and other esoteric sciences that stimulated and inspired his later inclinations toward meditation and spiritual retreats. According to the brief biographical account compiled by Boggala, Shaykh Husayn’s father, Jibril, served as a murid novice of the celebrated scholar saint al Hajj Bushra Ay Muhammad d 1863 of Geta Qallu in eastern Wello for thirty years After receiving the blessings of al Hajj Bushra for his loyal services he moved ...

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

Karnu  

Richard A. Bradshaw

Central African religious leader whose prophetic vision and teaching of nonviolent resistance to foreign domination in the 1920s helped inspire the so-called Baya Revolt or Hoe Handle War (Biro Konggo Wara), was born Barka Ngainoumbey during the 1890s in the village of Seri-Poumba, near Bouar and the Cameroonian border in western Ubangi-Shari. His name is also spelled Karnou. His father, Gbayanga Ngabanan Ngaiwen, belonged to the Gbaya (Baya) ethnolinguistic group, and thus so did his son. Barka’s parents separated while he was still very young, and his mother took him back to her village with her. Little is known for certain about his youth, but it is said that as a teenager, Barka was initiated into the Labi cult, which is associated with the acquisition of certain extraordinary powers, and that Barka was known for his hunting and fishing skills.

It is said that when Barka went to ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Christian religious leader was born to his Kikongo speaking mother Luezi and father Kuyela in the small village of Nkamba located in the western Bas Congo province of the Independent State of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo Shortly after Kimbangu s birth the English Baptist missionary G R Cameron took shelter in Nkamba and blessed the young child However the boy s youth was hardly easy His biological mother died when Simon was very young and he later lived with his father and his aunt respectively Kuyela s work as a diviner and healer did not suggest his son would become a Christian However Kimbangu became drawn to the British based Baptist Missionary Society BMS by his twenties His cousin Ndompetelo Mpata Mia Mbongo suffering from a terminal illness asked Simon to marry his wife and soon to be widow Marie Muilu Kiawanga Kimbangu did so apparently with ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Kongolese religious and political reformer, was born to a wealthy noble Kongo-speaking family in Kibangu, a mountainous region located in present-day Angola. Little is known of Kimpa Vita’s immediate family, but she grew up during a period of fragmentation and civil war. The relative stability of the Kongo kingdom in the sixteenth century had collapsed in the wake of the Portuguese invasion from Angola to its south in the 1660s. By the late seventeenth century, the old kingdom had divided into a range of competing noble families, each claiming to be the rightful dynasty that could rebuild the shattered fragments of Kongo into a single state. Kimpa Vita’s father served as an officer in the army of King Álvaro X, whose pretentions of being the true monarch of Kongo did not correspond with the tiny amount of territory around Kibangu that he actually controlled.

Amid this chaotic political landscape Kimpa ...

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

Heike Behrend

Ugandan spirit medium, prophet, and leader of a military force involved in the Ugandan civil war in the 1980s, later named Alice “Lakwena” after a spirit that took possession of her. She was born Alice Auma in 1956 in Bungatira, a village near Gulu in Acholi, Northern Uganda, as her mother, Iberina Ayaa’s, second child. Her father, Severino Lukoya, worked as a catechist for the Church of Uganda. In 1948, before she was born, he had a vision; in 1958, after he had fallen from the roof of his house and believed that he had “gone straight to heaven,” a voice called out that spirits would come to his children and that one child had already been chosen. It did not become clear to him that Alice was the chosen child until January 1985 when she began preaching the word of God Thus her father had experienced ...

Article

Douglas Thomas

, first khalifa general of the Layenne tariqa (Sufi order) and proclaimed reincarnation of the prophet Issa ibn Mariama (Jesus Christ) in present-day Senegal, was born in Yoff in 1876 to Seydina Limamou Laye and Fatima Mbengue.

Seydina Issa Rohou Laye took the helm of the Layenne tariqa following his father’s death in 1909 By all accounts he was a quiet and studious child always obedient to his father Early in his education a miracle is recounted Seydina Issa and Ibrahima Mbengue were sent to study under the scholar Njaga Gaye Gaye charged the older Mbengue to teach Seydina Issa the letters of the Arabic alphabet Each time he attempted to have Seydina Issa repeat after him Seydina Issa would faint Mbengue gave up saying this child can t learn Limamou Laye laid his hand on Seydina Issa s head and said three times Issa will learn He who ...

Article

Fidelis Nkomazana

South African founder of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), was born at Thabakgone, in the district of Pietersburg (now Polokwane) in the Limpopo Province in South Africa. He was one of the first children of Matseleng Barnabas Lekganyane and Sefora, the daughter of Marobathota Raphela. Lekganyane underwent five years of primary education at the Matlhantlhe School (run by Scottish Presbyterian missionaries) before staying at home.

In 1918, Lekganyane married Salphina Rabodiba, who gave birth to a daughter and five sons, considered as the rightful heirs. He later married two more wives, whose children were not recognized by the ZCC, but were later made members of the brass band, and responsible for leading the way during functions.

Lekganyane was a former member of the Free Church of Scotland FCS Apostolic Faith Mission AFM and Zion Apostolic Church ZAC ZCC is traced to a revelation which Lekganyane was said to have ...

Article

Zambian prophet, was born near Kasomo Village in the Chinsali District of northern Zambia in the early 1920s. She was named Mulenga Lubusha at birth, and was later baptized with the Christian name Alice. Her mother, Musungu Chimba, and father, Lubusha, were members of the royal clan of the Bemba kingdom, the Crocodile Clan. Further details about her mother are unknown; her father was a village policeman who fought for the British during World War I and was a messenger for the colonial administration.

Lenshina married Gipson Nkwale soon after puberty and had a child with him After the death of Gipson she was cleansed and inherited according to Bemba custom by his cousin Petros Chintankwa d 1972 with whom she had five children She relished her position as a mother and is remembered fondly by her children She campaigned for the material and spiritual well being of all but ...

Article

Timothy Scarnecchia

Southern Rhodesian religious leader and founder of the Guta re Jehova (GRJ; City of God) church in the 1950s, was born in Buhera, in Chief Chitsunge’s village. She began her religious career in the very popular American Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC), Ruwadzano (Fellowship) movement. As a women’s organization within the AMEC, the Ruwadzano movement permitted a new mobility and social distinction for African women in rural and urban settings. According to Methodist Synod records, Mai Chaza first appeared in the Salisbury township of Highfield in 1948 after her husband s death in the mining town of Concession While living with another Methodist family in Highfield Mai Chaza had a conversion experience similar to those of other major religious figures in southern Africa After an incident that left her for dead she miraculously returned to life and told those around her that she had visited heaven made peace with her ...

Article

Eva Evers Rosander

Senegalese woman who is honored for her saintliness, was the mother of Shaykh Amadu Bamba, the founder of Muridism. Members of this Senegalese Sufi tariqa (order, or path), called al-Muridiyya, venerate Shaykh Amadu Bamba (c. 1850–1927) in Touba, the sacred city of the Murids, and make pilgrimages to the tomb of his mother, Mame Diarra Bousso, in Porokhane.

Very little is known about Mame Diarra Bousso as a historical person Her father was called Mame Abdou Bousso her mother s name was Sokhna Walo Mbacké They belonged to the Halpulaar ethnic group Originally from Guéde Fouta they left because of political unrest in the region and went to Kayor earning a living by teaching the Qurʾan Both Mame Diarra s mother and father were deeply religious and her mother ensured that her daughter became quite learned in Islam Later Mame Diarra Bousso became the second wife of Mame Mor Anta ...

Article

David B. Coplan

renowned “national prophetess” of the Basotho (in present-day South Africa), was born in Koena-li-fule in 1793 on the west side of the central Caledon River, now in the Free State province of South Africa. She was a descendant of Bakwena ba Monaheng royalty, and her name refers to her surpassing talents as a storyteller, evident from a tender age, as she was named after a renowned teller of folktales, Ntsopa. In the 1840s, as raiding between the Basotho and the Afrikaner settlers raged along the Caledon, and war with the Orange River Territory administered by the British loomed, ‘Mantsopa, by then a renowned diviner and rainmaker, rallied popular resistance, by invoking the need to uphold the Basotho tradition.

Traveling widely in the lowlands of King Moshoeshoe I s He is listed Lesotho she railed against the Christian missionaries and exhorted the Basotho to revive their old customs and to support ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

was a North African female saint from the Shadhili Sufi order. Her exact birth and death dates are difficult to decipher. The tomb of the saint, or Sayyida, ʿAʾisha al-Manubiyya in Manuba outside of Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia, has long been a focus of devotion, especially for Sufi women.

According to the scholar Scott Kugle, the most important source for the life of Sayyida ʿAʾisha is a hagiography written about her entitled The Heroic Virtue of the Righteous Woman Saint, the Spiritual Master, Sayyida ʿAʾisha al Manubiyya. The hagiography was not intended as an accurate depiction of her life, but rather as a guide for spiritual living aimed especially at female devotees. Kugle and other scholars have recently deciphered the text and have provided a useful summary of how she performed miraculous acts from a very early age.

The miracles began while ʿAʾisha was still in ...