Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

The Post-Burial Rite of Kusemendera Guwa in the Indigenous Ndau Culture in Zimbabwe: Insights on Enculturation Theology

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

The Post-Burial Rite of Kusemendera Guwa in the Indigenous Ndau Culture in Zimbabwe: Insights on Enculturation Theology

Article excerpt


There is a fresh paradigm about how Africans perceive their dead. The early missionaries regarded African rites as fetishistic and primitive so much that the indigenous people felt ashamed in performing and celebrating their traditions and culture. However, with the emergence of African Renaissance studies most indigenous rituals are re-surfacing with vitality. The indigenous knowledge systems of these rites de passage are gaining much currency so much that they must be incorporated in the Zimbabwean formal education. Amongst those rites is the post-burial rite of kusemendera guwa. The study examines the significance of this rite in the context of the surging theology of enculturation in Africa. Accordingly, the principal aim of the study is to expose the nature of the rite of kusemendera guwa (grace cementing) in the context of Ndau culture in Zimbabwe. The study perceives a theology of enculturation to constitute potentialities of making African Christianity authentic. The study guarantees the continuity and resilience of the indigenous rites of passage among the Ndau indigenes.

Keywords: enculturation theology, culture, education, Kusemendera Guwa, Ndau, Zimbabwe.


In Africa death is viewed not as an end in itself. Rather, it is regarded as a transitional rite de passage, that is, from one stage of human development to the other. When a person dies physically, one transforms to become what has been called the 'living dead' (Mbiti, 1969; 1975) or the 'living timeless' ( Banana, 1991:22) metaphysically. It must be noted that the living dead are specifically revered so much that people have to perform a number of rites in order to keep in touch with their 'living-timeless'. Those rites, inter-alia, include some burial and post-burial rites. Maposa (2011) asserts that a rite is a traditional sacrament which is performed in a socio-religious setting and could be used interchangeably with the term, ritual. Every rite or ritual has prescribed social rules and customs (Ampim, 2003). In relation to the post-burial rites, for instance, there is what is known as kurova guva or kusemendera guva (grave cementing). Within the Ndau culture, these post- burial rites function to confirm the interdependence between the people in the present physical world and the living-timeless abode in the perceived metaphysical world. Within the indigenous African culture, this is part of an enduring inalienable connectivity. In this study, the insight is vital in the way it has shaped how Christianity has related with African Indigenous Religion (hereinafter, AIR). In addition, the inalienable connectivity between the people and the living dead has made a great impression on how AIR has imprinted the gospel message in Africa. The ambivalent attitudes that emerged from the interface between Christianity and AIR constitute the basis of the theology of enculturation. The insight is crucial in providing the key framework of the study. The focus of the study is on the Ndau rite of kusemendera guwa.

In the context of the Ndau culture, it must be noted that makuwa (graveyard, graves) constitute sacred places because dead people, or better still the 'living dead' are laid to rest in such sacrosanct places. No ordinary person is allowed to mill around at makuwa except family members, or sabhuku (village head) or mambo (chief). A commoner who is found in the makuwa places is heavily fined or excommunicated from the village. In the past in general, once a person died, buried and kurova guva rite performed, one's guwa (grave) was forgotten in the memory of the people. The graves from then onwards were left to literally submerge with time. However, it did not mean the complete abandonment of the dead people in the dustbins of oblivion. Rather, it must be mentioned that the Ndau people continue to believe that their 'living dead' continue to be watchful over the existential day-to-day affairs of their kith and kins. …

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