The Story of Africa
 

------------------------------------------------

 
- One god, many deities

------------------------------------------------

 
- Two worlds

------------------------------------------------

 
- Rites and living

------------------------------------------------

 
- Religion and politics

------------------------------------------------

 
- Islam

------------------------------------------------

 
- Intellectual traditions

------------------------------------------------

 
- Practices

------------------------------------------------

 
- North Africa and Ethopia

------------------------------------------------

 
- The Berbers

------------------------------------------------

 
- East Africa

------------------------------------------------

 
- West Africa

------------------------------------------------

 
- Christianity

------------------------------------------------

 
- North Africa

------------------------------------------------

 
- Ethiopia and Nubia

------------------------------------------------

 
- Missionaries

------------------------------------------------

 
- African churches

Religion and politics

 

Asante
Religion and politics have always been interconnected. This is reflected in leadership: most Kings and chiefs have traditionally ruled by divine right. Many are able to trace their ancestry back quite precisely, through oral histories, to a semi-divine figure. The Baganda, in Uganda, trace their right to rule back to Kintu, the first Kabaka or king. For the Yoruba, in Nigeria, it is Oduduwa, who began life as a junior deity and then became the first King, or Ooni of Ife.

Resurrection

 
The Sonjo, of Tanzania, have a founding father called Khambageu, who appeared among them, seemingly from nowhere. There are parallels between his life and that of Jesus Christ, although there is no historical connection.

Khambageu's mission was entirely benevolent. He was, among other things, a healer and judge. Later he was rejected by the community, and died alone. But when people came to dig up his grave they found it empty, except for sandals; there were reports of him flying to the sun. He is now a semi-divine figure.

Even today, many rulers retain vestiges of divinity. It may, for example, be forbidden to see where they sleep. Such is the case of the Kabaka of Buganda. In addition, the king may not be allowed to touch the ground with his feet - such is the case of the Lunda of Congo and Nyamwezi of Tanzania. Likewise, the death of a king is often kept secret for a period of time and it is not referred to directly.

Cults

 
In times of political turmoil and change, new religious cults have sprung up. For example, the Mourimi movement in southern Mozambique emerged in 1913-14, a time of famine and military defeat. The Mcapi cult in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) was active at the end of the Second World War, a period of great change.

The search for the golden stool of the Asante

 
The power of Asantehene, king of the Asante (in modern Ghana), was invested in the Golden Stool. The Golden Stool represented the people, the soul of the nation, the good fortune of the nation. The importance of the stool was crudely grasped by the British at a time of aggressive imperial expansion.

The Asantehene was sent into exile in 1896. But the key to his power - the Golden Stool - remained beyond the reach of the British. In 1900 the British Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool in the most offensive manner possible at a meeting of Asante chiefs.

"Where is the Golden Stool? Why am I not sitting on the Golden Stool at this moment? I am the representative of the paramount power; why have you relegated me to this chair?" - Verbatim transcript of Sir Frederick Hodgson's address to Asante chiefs, January 1900.

He then ordered soldiers to hunt out the Golden Stool.

"The white man asked the children where the Golden Stool was kept in Bare. The white man said he would beat the children if they did not bring their father from the bush. The children told the white man not to call their fathers. If he wanted to beat them, he should do it. The children knew the white men were coming for the Golden Stool. The children did not fear beating. The white soldiers began to bully and beat the children." - Eye Witness account of Kwadwo Afodo, quoted in Thomas J. Lewin's book Asante before the British: The Prempean Years 1875-1900.

The search for the Golden Stool sparked off a full scale military revolt, led by the Queen Mother (Yaa Asantewa). This culminated in the Governor being besieged in Kumase. The Queen Mother was only defeated by a British expeditionary force in July 1900.
^^ Back to top Back to Index >>