By J. W. Fernandez
Bwiti perhaps 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 means of morethan8 or 10 consistent with cent of the Fangpopulation(p. 356). Its participants declare that their imaginativeelaborationsof liturgy and trust come to them in dream communicationswith the ancestorsor below the impression of eboga,a drug to which they're deeply attached(p. 4). As a matterof truth, Bwiti is likely one of the few Africanreligious events to argue its efficiency from the consistent use of a psychoreactivedrug relatively 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 often called AsumejeEning ('Commencementof Life') which, even though 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 over the last thirty to 40 yearsalso attracteda small crowd of internationalsocial scientists, which through now makes it probably the most broadly 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). considering the fact that Fernandez'sfield researchended in 1960, his research could be consideredas relating the conditionsprevailingin or as much as the overdue 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, supply us a good suggestion of ways his considering on Bwiti has constructed. As anthropologistsare changing into an increasing number of awareof the necessity to learn the influences,
pressuresand processesunderlyingtheir personal production,and as Fernandezhas via now develop into a number one determine in Africanist anthropology,it should be beneficial 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 kind of learn may be fruitfully undertaken is Fernandez's presentation of Bwiti christologicalthinkingat differentstagesof his career,a subjectwe will returnto later during this overview.
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Extra info for Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa
These repons were a sourL-~ of the reputation for savagery and cannibalism acquired by Fang. At the same time. coastal accounts intrigued as n1uch as they repelleJ. for the missionaries feit a call to the conversion of these pristine interior tribö untouched by the corruption of the coast-its imn1oral European elemenh. its fteshpots, its monuments to mammon, its sycophantic and untrustwo11hy natives. Their ··manifest destiny'' was the penetration to and illun1ination of the heart of darkness. 2 The first direct contacts with Fang were made by two American nlissionaries, Wilson and Griswold.
That two different clans share the same village is a modern development. Assok Ening in that sense is very much a transitional village. With its 379 inhabitants it is also larger than the average Fang village-105 persons is average village size in the Woleu Ntem. while 85 persons per village is average for all Fang regions. Most of the action in Assok Ening takes place in the family of Mba M 'Oye. It has 65 members, the largest family in the village. There are 8 nyamoro (mature, usually middle-aged, men with wives and children), 22 women Viilage of Assok Ening I.
Their ··manifest destiny'' was the penetration to and illun1ination of the heart of darkness. 2 The first direct contacts with Fang were made by two American nlissionaries, Wilson and Griswold. representing the American Board of Foreign Missions. They arrived on the Gabon on the 22nd of June, 1842. J A n1onth later, in a Ietter to the harne board, the Rev. Griswold, in explaining the wisdom of the site selected, was already extolling the opportunities for access to the interior tribes. He drew an entrancing picture of the · "millions of southern central Africa which had never yet been visited by the Christian Missionary.