One African Postcolonial Theology: The Imperative to Differ

Dr Kenzo Mabiala gave a brilliant talk at the first Amahoro conference in Uganda in May 2007. I recorded this on a handheld recorder – it’s worth persevering through the low quality because this lecture is sheer genius. Kenzo says that theological work done in Africa has the imperative to differ from theology from the West, and must have the courage to denouce Western theology – which “came of age during the rise of colonialism” – as being used to seeing itself as the centre around which other theologies must orient themselves (in other words: theological arrogance which claims that Western theology is the only correct theology, and all other theologies need to understand themselves in relation to Western theology).

amahoro01_Mabiala_Kenzo.mp3 (size 12 MB’s).

This is something you should hear at your church this week, but probably won’t.

NOTES from a lecture by Dr Kenzo Mabiala at the Amahoro Gathering in Mukono, 2007.

The church in Africa is at a cross roads, poised to become a major force in the world. But we will only be successful in this if we have the courage to differ, to innovate.

In a world that is increasingly becoming a global village, there are not only the obvious changes (like communications, travel, products, etc), but also that we are changing our view of the world. This is as important and profound a change as the shift to the modern era from the middle ages.

Around the world, this is often referred to as postmodernism. In Africa, this is happening, too, under the guise of postcolonialism. This is more than a time or an era – it is a mindset or an attitude, too. There are those who cannot move forward until they have dealt with the demons of colonialism.

Knowledge is never innocent. It is a play between two forces: power and control.

The first generation of African scholars saw the colonial problem, and the solution was to regress to pre-colonial, pre-Christian, pre-Islamic Africa. But, they have realised that this is an impossibility.

The challenge going forward is to integrate all aspects of who we are now (e.g. Congolese, Christian, technologically advanced individual), rather than denying any one of these aspects of who we are.

Why am I attracted to postmodernism, emerging thinking and postcolonialism? Because they are asking the right questions.

Identity is created, not inherited. In Christ, we can be recreated.

When we study theology, we must realise that every theology is a contextual theology – yes, even Calvin and Luther.

Postmodernity is incredulity towards meta narratives. Every story is told around a plot, and that story is not innocent.

Those (like Carson) who are trying to maintain modernity, do not see modernity through the eyes of the oppressed. In Africa, modernity brought slavery and colonial oppression. It is like the “smell of an abusive father” – even when it is no longer there, you still have the smell of him in your nose (this analogy from a Congolese philosopher).

Africa has an opportunity to choose an identity – to choose how to respond and how to integrate. Africans must respond with boldness, creativity and difference.

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