Other Ways of Reading; African Women and the Bible

Article excerpt

edited by Musa W. Dube. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature and Geneva: WCC Publications, 2001. 254 pp. $24.95.

I take great delight in having the opportunity to review this collection of thirteen essays having to do with contemporary African women and their engagements of the Bible. Ably edited and introduced by Musa W. Dube, Senior Lecturer in the New Testament in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Botswana, the essays have been long awaited. They fill a tremendous need -- among and beyond the women of Africa. They inform and challenge and inspire communities far beyond the circle of the discussants in the book. They make a dramatic statement about the powerful voices and sentiments and creative impulses of African women and their potential to enliven thinking about and approaches to the Bible in particular and the sacred in general. The volume is also a fine contribution to the growing phenomenon of the heightened consciousness and re-awakening among non-dominants throughout the world -- different racial-ethnic minority groups, women, the poor -- about the social power to be realized in the interpretation of texts and other objects and phenomena widely regarded as canonical.

As Dube's introduction makes clear, the essays address a selection of themes and issues that have been part of the conversations among the women of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. The volume of thirteen essays is divided into six major sections -- Storytelling Methods and Interpretations; Patriarchal and Colonizing Translations; Reading with and from Non-Academic Readers; Womanhood and Womanist Methods; The Divination Method of Interpretation; and In Response. In the first section Rose Teteki Abbey, Mmadipoane (Ngwana 'Mphahlele) Masenya, and Dube critically reflect upon African storytelling practices as interpretation. And Masenya and Dube provide fascinating interpretations of biblical stories (Esther and Mark 5) in terms of storytelling. In the second section Dora R. Mbuwayesango and Gomang Seratwa Ntloedibe-Kuswani critically unmask some of the practices and shine light on some of the effects of patriarchal colonialism among the Shona peoples and among devotees of Modimo in Southern Africa. The third section is focused upon "non-academic readers." This is a somewhat odd categorization because the essays by Musimbi R. A. Kanyoro and Gloria Kehilwe Plaatjie do not really seem to address or reflect upon a type of audience different from the other essays. …