Religion, Media, and the Marketplace

By Lynn Schofield Clark | Go to book overview

9

"Blowing the Cover":
Imaging Religious Functionaries
in Ghanaian/Nigerian Films

KWABENA ASAMOAH-GYADU

Instances of religious lifestyle branding now can be found in every corner of the
globe, in part because religious leaders and their adherents are constantly in the
process of rearticulating their faith commitments as a means by which to remain
relevant and attractive to the cultures in which they find themselves. Across the
large continent of Africa, this rearticulation has taken different forms over the
years in response to Christian missionary work and, more recently, in response
to the growth of Islam.

When missionaries first arrived in Africa in the early to the middle part of
the nineteenth century, they brought a brand of denominationally affiliated reli-
gion that, for some, came to be seen as too staid for a population steeped in
traditional practices of healing, amulets, rituals, and prophets, a population
concerned with what they perceived as the realities of supernatural evil. By
the end of the century, a movement to re-Africanize the population had taken
hold, with prophet-healing churches emerging to address the concerns local
Christians had regarding witchcraft, healing, and potions. This movement has
been cast as "demonic" by the now-emergent Pentecostal/charismatic churches,
which began to gain a stronghold in African life in the 1970s and continue to
gain influence today. The Pentecostal/charismatic groups have strongly pro-
moted their "brand" of religion, seeking to differentiate themselves from both
the staid missionary traditions and the personality cults of the prophet-healing
churches.

-224-

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