The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends

By Gerald O. West; Musa W. Dube | Go to book overview

NGAKA AND JESUS AS LIBERATORS:
A COMPARATIVE READING
Gomang Seratwa Ntloedibe

When Christianity was first introduced to Africa, African religiosity was rejected “as perfect specimens of absolute error, masterpieces of hell's invention, which Christianity was simply called upon to oppose, uproot and destroy” (Gairdner 1910: 137). But it was hard for the African world view to be replaced with any other without creating “a form of religious schizophrenia.” The early missionary enterprise reached Africa with exclusive attitudes that seldom associated God's creative hand and revelation with African religions. This influenced most colonial writers to state that there were no figures in African cultures playing a similar role to that played by the Jesus of Christianity (Mbiti 1972).

As a Motswana, I also grew up reading from early missionary literature that the Ngaka, an indigenous healer, is a witch (moloi) not a fighter of evil (witchcraft). In this essay, I am going to interpret against the colonial approach. I will regard both African Religious Traditions and the Christian Testaments as equally important/authoritative to my life, and that of Batswana people. This essay will argue that the Ngaka, like Jesus, is a liberator, saviour and sacred agent, who attempts to bring about justice in society. I will use a comparative approach to show that the Ngaka, an indigenous healer, and Jesus, a Jewish-Christian healer, are both liberators and saviours. First, I will describe the role played by the Ngaka in his/her own society. Second, I will discuss the healing of Jesus in order to trace the role he played in his own society and how he came to be understood as “Christ” or saviour. Finally, as a way of conclusion, I will compare the roles of the Ngaka in Batswana societies and Jesus in his Jewish context.

How was the concept of the Ngaka understood amongst Batswana? Traditionally Batswana have two main groups of dingaka (plural): the herbalist (e tshotswa) who is the one who does not practice divination, who mainly attends to the physical symptoms of disease, and the diviner-herbalist (Ngaka ya Setswana) who is differentiated from the

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