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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Converts and Conservatives. Missionary Representations of African Rulers in the Northern Transvaal, c.1870-1900
Authors:Kirkaldy, AlanISNI
Kriel, LizeISNI
Periodical:Le Fait Missionnaire: Social Sciences and Missions
Geographic terms:South Africa
traditional rulers
religious conversion
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
History and Exploration
Abstract:During the second half of the 19th century, the Berlin Mission Society (BMS) made strenuous efforts to convert rulers of the people in whose areas they worked in the Northern Transvaal, South Africa. In this they were largely unsuccessful. This raises questions about what forces influenced success and failure, and how the missionaries interpreted this. This article interrogates the BMS's accounts of the life and death of August Makhahane, a ruler of the Venda who converted to Christianity, against the background of the accounts dealing with Matsiokwane Leboho, a ruler of the Hananwa who did not convert. Through such a comparison, the authors explore the contrasted ways in which the Berlin missionaries reported about the two rulers. For both rulers, the 'Berliner Missionsberichte' are used as sources. These are detailed reports of the activities of the mission produced both to account for their activities and to raise funds for further expansion of mission work. In the case of Makhahane, another source used is a tract about his life produced by the BMS to celebrate what they saw as their success. The authors show that accepting or rejecting Christianity was the result of a range of spiritual, social and political decisions. However, the missionaries' portrayal of the differences between converts and conservatives ('heathens') were rather built on religious arguments of their own making than on an understanding of power relations in the local African societies. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]