Aggy and coro relationship trust

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aggy and coro relationship trust

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In the minds and hearts of Roho Christians, the sacrifices of the early Roho community at Musanda are salvific; in the person of Mango, God fulfilled his promise to provide Africans with a savior of their own, and Mango's martyrdom has ushered in a new age of the Holy Spirit in the church in Africa. Perhaps because of the centrality of the founding story in the church's spiritual and moral orientation, many members stress the need for accuracy in the oral transmission of their history.

During weekly sabbath services and particularly during the large annual Celebration of Remembrance Sikukuu mar Rapar ,2 elderly eyewitnesses jomoneno are called on to recount what took place at 3 4 Women of Fire and Spirit Musanda. Over the years, the result has been the gradual development of a quasi-canonical oral tradition that is celebrated and disseminated throughout approximately three hundred sixty Ruwe congregations. My primary informant was a Luo woman named Anna Inondi.

Born aroundAnna joined the Roho movement as a young woman and devoted her entire life to the faith. In the spring ofshe was very frail and sick but was still visited and honored by Ruwe Roho Christians who had given her the title Mama Kanisa Mother of the Church.

In a series of interviews, Anna offered me a lengthy and detailed history of her church. It is Inondi's account—corroborated and modified by other elders—that forms the bulk of the oral material contained here and in the next two chapters. In this testimony, Mango appears as a strongwilled individual.

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Imbued with the Holy Spirit, he was able to heal people, foresee the future, and assert the need for an African-run church in the face of foreign domination.

There is, therefore, a considerable amount of information on Mango and the Joroho people of the Spirit contained in district and provincial records. Other useful documentation includes a record of the testimonies made by Wanga and Roho witnesses during the inquiry conducted by the District Office of North Kavirondo immediately following the disturbances also known as the Musanda massacre.

Finally, there is a carefully compiled report on the Roho movement by Captain Hislop, the district officer in charge of the investigation, who includes his conclusions and personal insights.

At least one historian has relied heavily on this archival material in documenting Mango's leading role in Kager clan agitation in Buholo Ogot The picture of Alfayo Odongo Mango that emerges from this body of colonial documentation is one of an angry, stubborn individual involved in a longstanding, bitter land dispute between the Kager Luo and the Wanga. The Wanga are a Bantu clan whose strength and landholdings increased considerably with the arrival of the British, who repeatedly backed Wanga military campaigns against their neighbors.

Resentful of being classified by the government as a tenant on land he considered rightfully his own, Mango joined forces with other Kager in Buholo and Ugenya to press claims for their "lost lands. The Kager leaders felt that if the boundary were redrawn, the clan would be better able to put forth a unified resistance to the hegemony of the despised Wanga Paramount Chief Mumia, his brothers, and sons.

When he emerged as a primary leader of the growing Roho cult, British authorities naturally tended to perceive his involvement as politically motivated.

The cult was seen as a last-ditch attempt to rally support through the vehicle of religious organization. A second, more colorful source of written information on the history of the Roho movement is the correspondence of Anglican missionaries in Kavirondo now Nyanza during this period.

Owen was a complicated and controversial figure. Inafter fourteen years in Uganda, the Irish pastor had been sent by Bishop Willis to Kavirondo then still part of the Uganda diocese to head the C. A staunch proponent of native rights, Owen oversaw the growth of a vigorous, self-supporting, lay-run Anglican church, and encouraged the same level of indigenous initiative in political matters Welbourn and Ogot; Atieno Odhiambo7. For instance, the organizers of the Young Kavirondo Association—the first independent political body established in Luoland—were all closely affiliated with Owen's C.

When the government was on the verge of banning the association inOwen prevailed upon the provincial commissioner not to do so. Instead, the archdeacon himself became the president of the organization under its new name, the Kavirondo Taxpayers' Welfare Association. The association proved a vital and effective vehicle for voicing local protest against a wide array of exploitative colonial policies.

Needless to say, Owen's activities did not win favor among settlers and officials, who consequently dubbed him "the Archdemon of Kavirondo" Lonsdale Nor was he popular among his more conservative colleagues in the Mombasa diocese, who felt that Owen's insistence on African-run parishes was dangerously premature.

Owen was exceptionally outspoken in his criticism of Europeans' patronizing attitudes toward Africans Welbourn and Ogot Yet his own Christian liberalism, like that of many other C. Alfayo Odongo Mango was well known to Archdeacon Owen. Mango had been one of the first Luos chosen by Owen's predecessor, Archdeacon Walter Chadwick, to train as a catechist at the C. Normal School in Maseno. In his capacity as evangelist, Mango later openly challenged some of Owen's decisions, such as the archdea- 6 Women of Fire and Spirit eon's attempt to make Luhanga the Wanga tongue the official language of worship in Butere pastorate Ogot Despite their differences, Owen nevertheless appointed Mango in to be deacon of a large, predominantly Luo area that included South Wanga, Buholo, South Ugenya, Marama, and Gem locations Ogot However, when Mango refused to desist from leading the Kager in their agitation over "lost lands," Owen's dealings with his appointee became increasingly strained.

Owen and his colleagues the Reverend A. Lawi, who according to Owen had a history of "dementia,"7 had led a series of'"Holy Ghost' revival and evangelistic meetings" in Alego and Gem. These sessions, in Owen's words, "had been characterised by the most extravagant forms of hysteria.

On January 17,five days before Mango was murdered, the Archdeacon reported to the district commissioner: Alufayo Odongo has broken away from the Anglican Church, repudiated the authority of myself and the Bishop, refuses to have any communication with us thus, incidentally, breaking No. The Anglican cleric did, in fact, view Mango and Lawi as trying to "make a cat's paw of the Church to further their clan and tribal aims.

Moreover, it is clear that Owen perceived himself to be a true friend and champion of the native against colonial oppressors Lonsdalc; Greaves On the one hand, then, he describes Mango and Lawi as mad people who believe themselves divinely inspired. On the other hand, he depicts them as shrewd, calculating individuals hiding their political agenda behind a veil of religious fervor.

The fundamental incompatibility of these two images of Mango, Lawi, and their motives did not seem to occur to Owen. Colonial, missionary, and oral sources are all useful in reconstructing the history of the Roho movement. To be sure, each contains a distinctive interpretation and thus offers a different picture of Alfayo Odongo Mango and his motives.

Governmental officials saw the Roho group as subversive and troubling. Mango's movement was a painful reminder of the administration's failure to quell tribal conflict and settle land disputes in south Wanga.

They saw the sapling so carefully planted by the C. Today's Roho members offer yet a third perspective.

Women of Fire and Spirit: History, Faith, and Gender in Roho Religion in Western Kenya

For them, Mango is an exclusively positive figure. He is portrayed as both temporal and spiritual liberator; he established the first truly African church, and his death atoned for the sins of black people, giving them entry into heaven.

The historical sources that chroniclers privilege naturally shape their analyses of the movement as a whole. My study takes as its foundation the oral tradition preserved within the Ruwe Holy Ghost church.

I then employ colonial and missionary records as a supplement to that basic narrative and point out discrepancies where they occur. I have adopted this method for two reasons. First, irrespective of whatever else it may have once been, today's institutionalized Roho movement is essentially religious.

Inondi's account highlights this religious dimension, enabling us to see the continuity and gradual evolution of the Roho faith since the s.

By "religious," I mean phenomena arising from a culturally conditioned response to a perceived transcendent reality that is affirmed by a community, codified within myth or scripture, and enacted in ritual and through which people attempt to act in ways that bring daily existence into closer alignment with their sense of spiritual reality.

Such a definition encompasses those political projects and goals that are anchored within a value system whose ultimate referent is transcendent. For instance, in the eyes of Roho elders, Mango's political activities were an integral part of his religious program. When asked, elders acknowledge that Mango was involved in a land dispute, but they see his activities within the context of securing freedom for the young Roho community to flourish and spread God's word.

In other words, Mango is not remembered by contemporary Roho Christians as a Luo nationalist but as a religious rebel. Most of the conflicts he was 8 Women of Fire and Spirit engaged in are not recorded in Roho oral tradition as interethnic struggles but as problems resulting from persecution by other Anglicans who were backed—if not incited—by the missionaries.

Some outsiders and historians may challenge this perception of Mango as a "mythicized" gloss, a distorted picture of a man whose aims were actually political and material. However, the data on which such a critique would be based— the records of colonial officials and European missionaries—are, again, no more sound than the testimony of Mango's religious followers.

The task of the chronicler who wishes to tell the story of Mango and the Roho movement in as balanced a fashion as possible is not a matter of embracing either the religious or the political viewpoint to the exclusion of the other. Rather, the chronicler must decide which of the two reified categories—religion or politics—will encompass the other in the historiography of the Roho denomination.

In following the lead of the church members themselves, I have chosen to understand Roho religion as the matrix out of which Mango's political struggles arose, rather than depict the Roho church as a by-product of these disputes. The overall historical picture that emerges is not simply more in keeping with the Roho point of view, but makes the character of Mango's overall legacy more comprehensible.

The second reason for privileging oral tradition in the reconstruction of Roho history concerns the role of women. Only in members' oral accounts are the contributions of Roho women documented. Although colonial and missionary reports may be more reliable as far as basic chronology is concerned, they highlight the activities of male leaders exclusively. When women are mentioned in these written texts, it is usually in collective and dismissive terms.

As we will see, women have always been the backbone of this popular religion. A history that is silent with respect to their activities would be seriously skewed. According to the testimony of Inondi and other Roho elders, women were critical to the emergence of the Roho movement.

In the s, women endured beatings and sacrificed their reputations in order to attend prayer sessions in people's homes. When necessary, as in the "war" ofwomen formed bands of askeche soldiers to defend themselves and their menfolk against persecution. Adherents were forced to gather secretly in other villages, worshiping in whispers. Elders explain that this was a time of trial and hardship for the Roho community; many men were inclined to drop out.

The religion was kept alive primarily by women.

aggy and coro relationship trust

At times they were imprisoned for their activities. They founded congregations and presided over local brandies. Some women took an oath among themselves to postpone marriage so that they The Early Phase of the Roho Movement 9 could devote their lives exclusively to spreading the Roho faith.

The well-loved hymn that Roho women sing during the Celebration of Remembrance commemorates women's involvement at Musanda and encapsulates their view of themselves as warriors for the faith: Wan nyi kedo, wan nyi mach; We are women of war, we are women of fire; Wan nyi loyo, wan nyi long; We are women of victory, we are women of spears; Wanamor, wanamor ei polo! We will be happy, we will be happy in heaven! British observers, and missionaries in particular, did take notice of the predominance of women in Mango's circle.

H Unlike Roho oral tradition, which treats the pivotal role of women in the early movement as a sign of strength, British missionaries considered women's predominance in the Roho cult as indicative of its devious nature. Some telling excerpts from a lengthy letter written by Archdeacon Owen to the secretary of the Church Missionary Society in Nairobi describe the former's experience at one of Lawi's prayer meetings in Lawi was holding forth.

He [Canon Pleydell] could not hear what he said. He kept his eyes fixed on the woman, without saying a word for about three minutes, when the woman began to tremble and shake all over, and set up a hysterical yelling. At this juncture, Miss Moller and I arrived.

I heard yells rising on the night air, and boldly pushed the door and went in. The hut was packed to suffocation with people about The vast majority women and girls, though there were children too. As soon as I entered, and they had realized who I was in the dim light of the one hurricane lamp which provided illumination, Lawi motioned the people to rise, whereupon a woman who had been trembling and shaking and ejaculating. Some believers speak in tongues, some jump up and down, some collapse in trance.

Women known as laktache healers or doctors are ready to restrain ecstatic dancers who are out of control. They also guard unconscious individuals whose souls are believed to have temporarily left their bodies. The archdeacon witnessed two participants in a deep trance, each tended by a woman, but just as he could make no sense of the "hysterical" dances before him, neither could he comprehend this situation: Yet the archdeacon still saw something decidedly provocative and illicit about the practice of women or girls guarding the boys, as he makes clear in his closing remarks: Well, it has been one of the weirdest experiences of my life, and it gives rise to much thought.

An outstanding lesson is the peril of leaving girls uneducated to an equal level with the boys. It is the girls, maturing and matured physically, and to a lesser degree the married women, who form the large bulk of the "converts" to the cult. Curiously enough, I have recently said over and over again in pressing the claims of girls education that an unscrupulous Maseno school boy could twist unsophisticated girls round his fingers. The dangers of the movement are obvious. In spite of the fact that it is done under the cloak of religion and evangelism I am convinced that there is deception which must have an element of consciousness in it, on the part of Lawi.

The sex dangers are obvious. Those two lads with their heads and shoulders pillowed on the willing laps of hefty, lusty wenches, when they came round would be able to twist those same wenches round their fingers.

Sex passions must be aroused under circumstances of darkness. The popular eighteenth-century European view of women as hysterical, irrational, and "more obedient to nature's impulses" than men had become even more exaggerated when applied to so-called primitive women of the tropics, whom traveler-writers depicted as happy in their natural state, sharing men freely and spontaneously Bloch and Bloch34; Jordanova49; Comaroff and Comaroff; Stocking; Beidelman Owen's correspondance indicates that he, like so many of his colleagues, perceived among his flock an ever-present tendency toward illicit sex and promiscuity that required vigilant control.

British missionaries drew on such widespread stereotypes to justify their imposition of the countervailing Victorian ideal of feminine virtue—the moral, sweet, passive homemaker—upon their converts Stocking Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century missionaries encouraged their wives to instruct local women in sewing, hygiene, deportment, first aid, and other tasks related to the domestic sphere, which together with basic lessons in Scripture were considered The Early Phase of the Roho Movement 11 crucial to turning African women into "good Christian wives and mothers" Pirouet; Beidelman70, Nevertheless, prior to the s, the commitment of the C.

Most women serving under society auspices had to secure independent funding and were left to initiate their own projects once in the field. Few schools, programs, or services for native women were yet established, and, as Strayer points out, the subordinate position of women in the missions "had no small effect on the mission's efforts among the African female population" Strayer6. Women were to help their menfolk when needed; otherwise, they ought to keep to themselves and pursue their own home-related projects.

There was no doubt in Archdeacon Owen's mind that Mango and Lawi were the cult's primary movers. Roho women were its victims. Nameless, excitable, and ignorant, the Roho "wenches" were easily misled by men. The primary picture that emerges from missionary and colonial documents of women's participation in the Roho movement—as in other Nyanza cults—is of an involvement that was both sexually deviant21 and feebleminded. Owen's remarks on the vulnerability of the women and girls who were attending the Roho service are consistent with the archdeacon's lifelong campaign to alleviate some of the "sorrows and helplessness of African womanhood" Richards7.

Despite their failure to see how their own organization discriminated against women, Archdeacon Owen and other C. They were highly critical of "tribal" practices they considered abusive of women: We can conclude that Owen's perception of African women and of his own response to their plight prevented him from seeing the participation of Roho women clearly.

His sectarianism and 12 Women of Fire and Spirit his discomfort with ecstatic forms of worship compounded his inability to see Roho members as persons involved in a constructive undertaking. Were Roho women misguided souls, as missionary and colonial documents suggest, or clear-minded, determined individuals, as Inondi and other Roho members maintain? Were they ignorant wenches or resolute warriors—how can one reconcile these dichotomous images?

As we have seen, the C. Missionaries—and the government officials who often depended on them for insights into indigenous culture— generally espoused pejorative views of African women. It is, therefore, not surprising that records written by the former simply do not contain useful information on the latter. One must rely on the memories of participants themselves to fill the void. This approach, as I hope will become clear in the next few chapters, is not simply a matter of presenting "the female point of view" on the history of a particular church; it is essential to reconstructing a more accurate history in the first place.

Emergence of the Roho Movement Unlike the colonial records, Anna Inondi's account of the Roho movement does not begin in the s with the activities of Alfayo Odongo Mango and Lawi Obonyo, the recognized founders of the Holy Ghost church. According to Inondi, the Spirit first came in the form of a voice, moving through the eaves of people's homes.

People were gathering outside, under the trees on a knoll where an unfinished cinder block church belonging to the Church of the Province of Kenya C.

Jeremiah Otang'a, an Anglican catechist and church elder, was to lead the service. As people arrived, they were expected to confess their sins before joining in the hymn singing. When confessing, several people suddenly fell down. Others were scared and tried to run away but were restrained by onlookers. Everyone was then shocked to see the tongues of those who had fallen down growing longer and longer. The victims were crying out in panic, "Ouch, my mouth, my mouth! Jeremiah Otang'a prayed for them, and, as they confessed their sins, their tongues shrank to normal size.

According to Inondi's account, the Holy Spirit continued to move about the countryside for a very long time. It then entered the chest of one of the Christians, a young man named Ibrahim Osodo. Osodo had built a small prayer house of his own accord "so that Christians could gather together and their hearts would The Early Phase of the Roho Movement 13 be one in following the Lord" mondo jokanisa ochokore mondo chuny ji obed achiel mar rito Nyasaye.

Inondi explained that the spirit used to speak to people gathering in Osodo's prayer house and enabled them to prophesy and perceive the truth about others much as a medium [ajuoga] would be given enhanced powers by his or her patron spirit: Ema owuoyo kodwa ka owacho kaka ok inene, ngato echago biro, ma madho kong'o; echago oa lokacha obiro ka.

Kobiro to inene mana ni en adier. After entering Ibrahim Osodo, the Spirit no longer possessed others but spoke to the community from within Osodo's chest. As Inondi expressed it, Otang'a ordered Osodo and his spirits to leave: The catechist told them, "Go somewhere else. He said to Ibrahim, "We are fed up with you, your words of the spirit are just too much now. It is only in Ruwe that these things appear; go someplace else.

There are many churches, go to another one and talk with the people there. Owacho ni Ibrahim ni, da, ise jonyo wa, wecheni mag who gi ojonyo wa. Ruwe kani kende ema gigi biro gaye; dhiye kama—chielo.

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Sikunde ng'eny, dhiye emoro mondo iwuoye kodgi. Although many thought Ibrahim was crazy or possessed by demons, others listened and believed the voice within him to be truly the Holy Spirit. There were others, too—Inondi could no longer recall their names—some of whom came from Alego. Most were in their teens and early twenties. Osodo and his followers used to gather on the same knoll where Otang'a held worship services, where they would march and sing hymns with great vigor.

Osodo's corps of inspired Christians were soon forced to disperse as a result of the First World War. Paramount Chief Mumia assigned his chiefs the task of finding recruits for the colonial branch of the British Armed Forces fighting the Germans in Tanganyika. The Wanga chief in charge of Ugenya, where Ruwe is located, knew of Osodo's band of energetic, disciplined, healthy youths "with 14 Women of Fire and Spirit smooth bodies" dendgi poth apotha who were regularly seen marching to Christian songs.

He decided to have them rounded up for military service, together with many Luo Anglican leaders. As Inondi put it: The Abaluyia saw that [the marching and singing] as something bad. Let's arrest them and send them to war, instead of leaving them [idle and] happy. At first, Mumia relented and had only three of the youths in the group conscripted: However, many other adult males in Ruwe were later forced to enlist.

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aggy and coro relationship trust

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