religion and spirituality in african literature

Religion And Spirituality In African Literature

by Testimony Soyoye

African spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore African religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane.”  – Jacob Olupona.

The theme of religion and spirituality in Africa has been amongst the most recurring themes in precolonial, colonial, and post-colonial literature. Religion and spirituality though intertwined are two distinct entities.

Religion is a set of beliefs and practices that individuals believe in and adhere to the belief that practicing such religion would mold one into a better person. Spirituality, as defined by The Cambridge Dictionary is “the quality that involves deep feelings and beliefs of a religious nature, rather than the physical parts of life.”

How do religion and spirituality feature in African literature?

A few African writers like Ngugi Wa Thiong’o have attempted to feature the themes of religion and spirituality in their books. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in his book The River Between explained that though colonialism has brought about a different religion and way of life, we are still enjoined to hold fast to our religious values.

Are African religious practices as barbaric as people think?

It is quite unfortunate that most Africans believe that practicing their own religion would be tantamount to being involved in barbaric practices. We can see this exemplified by Joshua, Nyamburi’s father in the book, The River Between. He secludes his children to keep them from being influenced by the people practicing the religion of the Gukuyi tribe. It might be true that some of our cultural norms might not be necessary. However, we do not have to deny that our religion is an integral part of our society.

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Whatever choices we make, whatever religious path we might choose to walk, let us all remember that we are Africans and the blood of our ancestors runs through our veins; from the first worshippers of Obatala, a  Yoruba god to Zuku worshippers, a god that is believed to originate from Southern Africa. We all have a duty to end the downplay of our religion and spirituality in our stories, in our collective narrative.

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