Voices from Exile: The Mpadist Mission des Noirs in Oshwe’s Prison Camps in the Belgian Congo (1940-1960)

Pieter De Coene, Margot Luyckfasseel, Gillian Mathys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This article examines the way the religious community of Simon Mpadi (closely related to the better-known Kimbanguist movement) crafted its identity within the colonial penal system in the Belgian Congo, specifically in Oshwe (in today’s Mai-Ndombe province). The article shows that the practice of relégation (domestic deportation) was an important constitutive element in the way Mpadists conceptualized power within the movement, as well as the identity of the movement. By relying mainly on colonial archival documents about the prison camps of Oshwe, including Mpadi’s own letters, and a limited sample of oral history interviews, the article traces how the practice of exile created a colonial “grammar of difference” through isolation and connection.1 It also focuses on how exiled Mpadists acted upon the inherent tensions of this colonial form of punishment to craft their identity and claim spiritual legitimacy and authority in opposition to others. Like the founders of the officially recognized and broadly studied Kimbanguist Church, Mpadi and his followers claimed legitimate authority over prophet Simon Kimbangu’s spiritual succession. While Kimbanguism has received much attention from historians, this power struggle, from the vantage point of Mpadists, is less well understood in the historiography of the late-colonial era. Given the contemporary relevance of exile in narratives of Mpadists and Kimbanguists, a historical lens can elucidate how these movements legitimize themselves within the current-day pluralist religious landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-114
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of African Historical Studies
Volume55
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, IJAHS African Studies Center. All rights reserved.

Copyright:
Copyright 2022 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Belgian Congo
  • Incarceration
  • religion
  • Colonial history

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