Loading...

Monday, 20 May 2013

On WitchCraft (Part I) - "Branded A Witch"

I understand that the title is enough to make the average person immediately click the little "X" in the top right corner, fear not, I have not descended to the "dark side" nor am I practicing any kind of "evil" (at least not that I'm aware of :). I am merely trying to raise awareness and squash any misconceptions on a much needed cause, so thank you for engaging.

After watching the documentary "Branded A Witch" on BBC, which looked at witchcraft in Congo (Kinshasa), and how it effects the communities there, I was compelled to explore this further and discuss many of the factors and influences this myopic documentary overlooked. 

I'm not negating or denying the existence of a problem with this notion of "kindoki" and how it effects the Congolese community-- particularly through the manifestation of child abuse, neglect and social exclusion -  however, we cannot find a solution to the problem without first identifying its origins.

This blog will be split into two parts: 1. The problem with this documentary 2. The issue of "witchcraft (kindoki)

1. The problem with the "Branded A Witch" documentary (and other documentaries of its kind).

This documentary is problematic, primarily due to the fact that it is reductionist and an over simplification of a very complex socio-historical issue. This documentary did not address that.
It perpetuates a narrow minded, stereotypical singular narrative not only of Congo, but of African countries in general, which normalises the issue of - in this case - "witchcraft" as if it is an ordinary part of the culture. Furthermore, it only continues the projection of Congo (and Africa in general) as "backward", for there are always comparisons drawn between Africa and Europe from a contemporary basis without analysing the history of how things came to be. As Europe is "developed", for there are no issues about "witchcraft", of course, Congo (and Africa generally) are "backward" because "witchcraft is still an issue".
Another problem is that these documentaries will make the general public react in either one of two ways. The first way is to be so revolted and disgusted by the depictions - which is understandable - that they turn away from the issue and thank their lucky stars they do not originate from such an environment, or they will focus on this issue only, and overlook the more pressing issue at hand, which continues to devastate the lives of children in Congo until this day and that is the conflict in eastern Congo of minerals and resources.
Many people are unaware of the 17 year ongoing conflict in which 6 million (and counting) people have been killed, and over 500'000 are raped as a tool for military warfare by militia men. In this conflict, approx 2.7 million of those who have been killed have been children. Today alone, 20 people died in a collapsed mine in eastern Congo (watch the documentary: Crisis In Congo: Uncovering The Truth - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLV9szEu9Ag). This issue was not brought up once, an issue which is intrinsically connected to the current socio-political situation in Congo.

Also, I feel the documentary takes advantage of, and emotionally manipulates, the presenter Kevani Kanda's familial situation, benevolent nature and compassionate desire to raise awareness about a sensitive and serious issue, who also may not realise the overall social political historical context upon which it rests (from what was shown in this documentary alone).



2. The issue of "witchcraft (kindoki)" in Congo (and Africa generally).

What does "witchcraft (kindoki)" have to do with it?  Well, firstly, when we say "witchcraft" or we even sure everyone is defining it by the same thing? Well, one dictionary give provided the definition: "The practice of magic, esp. black magic; the use of spells and the invocation of spirits".
Another gave the definition of witch craft as "Witchcraft (also called witchery or spellcraft) is the use of magical faculties, most commonly for religious, divinatory or medicinal purposes.


These two definitions of  "witchcraft" above offer two differing semantic definitions of the same concept.

Congo has a long history of imperialist oppression over hundreds of years, notably the most oppressive reign was that of King Leopold II who sent over christian missionaries as part of the conquest (this was his message to the missionaries on their task to spread the message in Congo: http://www.africanglobe.net/africa/letter-king-leopold-ii-colonial-missionaries-heading-africa-1883/).

When Christianity, by way of Belgian missionaries, began to spread in Congo, it also lead to the stigmatisation, dehumanisation and demonisation of traditional indigenous Bantu-Kongo spiritual beliefs, and labelled them as "witchcraft, immediately denounces as evil and those who practiced those beliefs where punished forthwith. Henceforth, anything that was associated with traditional beliefs, such as ancestral veneration, libation, statues, sceptres, etc, was immediately labelled "witchcraft", and any manifestation of that, was immediately eradicated of in one way or another.

This begs the question, if the phenomenon of "witchcraft" is Congolese culture, and not a consequence of colonialism, Christianity and the mission, what was "witchcraft" called, and what was it appropriated to, before European colonisers descended upon Africa?

There is the popular Congo story of "Bankanza" who, during times of colonial oppression and christian missionaries,  was eventually for resisting conversion to Christianity and continuing to practise his traditional beliefs.




What you are in fact seeing is not the issue of "witchcraft", but of religious fundamentalism, in the sense that, the practitioners of a religion - in this case Christianity in particular - are using extreme methods to chastise those who do not fall into their dogma, and label any digression of that "witchcraft (kindoki)". This religious fundamentalism MUST NOT be believed to be a normalised part of Congolese culture.

Do not interpret this as an attack on Christianity, it is not. However, we must speak openly about the use of religion in the colonial oppression of Congo, and Africa.


This is Part I of the discussion. Part II will come soon.






30 comments:

  1. The things that were showed in that programe happeneing to children were disgusting weather we know the "socio-history" or not and those children need people to defend them. What those pastors do is abuse theres no other word for it and it evil.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beyond abuse. Bordering on torture

      Delete
  2. Well said, I agree with much of what you had to say and think that many should also do some extra digging into this story before being completely taken in by the idea that this is an African norm stemming from African culture that has been mixed with Christianity. A more holistic view should have been shown in the documentary, such context as the influence of colonialism on such countries as the Congo are conveniently excluded in many accounts of issues in past colonies. Colonialism was a long time ago in the eyes of some and because they were never affected believed to be a chip many hold on their shoulders. The western world has discovered civility and compassion now and like to distant itself from its, and this is putting it lightly, uncivilised

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ways. Lets not forget the irradiating of many races, cultures and identities, and the use of religion by the western world to keep others in order. What is happening in Africa is nothing new, you claim you ar to attacking Christianity, a problem I find is that sensitivity to Christian beliefs are give too much air time. Before anything as bob Marley put it, we are world citizens, until we get treating each other right lets leave the gods out of it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This documentary was one of the most shocking things I have ever seen. To see that 5 year old boy's traumatised face in his mothers
    arms after being tortured and abused by these women pastors was unreal to believe. I will never forgat the look in his eyes. Forget about the blame game of colonialism and wars, its more than shocking to to see how people can do such things to their own children. I note that adults now are NOT branded as witches, ....children are easier and more vulnerable. But what are we doing about it to educate or call on the Congolese government to outlaw this vile practise. NOTHING as usual. The problem is that all the officials are probably practising it too. And we are not allowed to call it 'Darkest Africa' anymore. This practice is the darkest face of humanity. No excuses.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Maybe we could spare some soldiers from Afghanistan to help these poor children

    ReplyDelete
  6. Its not even that what made me most angry about the documentary was how the acted as if she didn't understand KINDOKI

    ReplyDelete
  7. The girl acted very ignorant, saying UK my real home ehhh darling your blick inside and outside n there's nothing changing that be proud of where your from, she narrated the programme and knew what she was saying, she made it seem as if KINDOKI i

    ReplyDelete
  8. Cont. is the norm and basically just humiliating our beautiful rich country. Muana obotama na Congo u had an opportunity to show how wealthy our country is but decided to talk about kindoki apesi batu ebele kanda, it was a decent programme but portrayed in the wrong way. Ata ba futi nga combien

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whether this is the norm or not, this practice is the barbaric, cruel, premeditated, systematic and ritual abuse of innocent children and should not be excused, explained, trivialised or supported in any way. I was absolutely traumatised by the documentary and actually didn't sleep last night for thinking about the faces of the children. Are these people completely stupid to believe in this nonsense? Needless to say there is money involved as usual. What kind of person takes their child along to a line up to be selected by these monstrous so called pastors? I'm not interested in the background or cultural traditions. These individuals are not part of civilised society and frankly should be behind bars with other criminals not loose in the community. Not only are they physically brutalising children and totally destroying their lives but they are brainwashing them into thinking that they are evil. If this practice is illegal now, I sincerely hope the documentary makers have passed a copy to the authorities, or am I being naive to think that they are not involved. Your "beautiful rich country" is an abomination (I know it is not alone). I would like to know what the Church is doing to stamp out this atrocity worldwide.

      Delete
    2. Put perfectly well said. I also couldn't sleep last night and I also hope the authorities will be informed. If congo is a beautiful rich country step upto the mark and stop this barbaric abuse and the poverty that's causing accusations of kindoki.
      The families are so poor yet find money to pay for someone to abuse their child to fix their own problem's disgusting!

      Delete
    3. Totally agree with the last comment, I hardly slept either with that poor boy's cries in my ears. To give a hot oil enema then make him run but forbid him to go to the toilet for fear of another beating? Seriously? That is supposed to get rid of evil spirits? More like someone enjoying inflicting agony to one who is helpless and has no idea why he is being made to hurt. A beautiful, wealthy wonderful country it may be. But the systematic torture of children for money is barbaric and cruel. You should be ashamed.

      Delete
    4. I watched this so called documentary in tears. The look of that little boys eyes will stay with me for a very long time. I am a mother to 3 children 1 is 19 yrs old 1 is 17 years old and 1 is 9 weeks old, I was so enraged by what I saw and the way the pastors thought they had the right to torture these poor helpless children. That little boy was abused, pure and simply. There is no point in sugar coating it, it was pure evil abuse. what are the authorities doing now it has been aired!!!!! It has been aired for all to see so what will happen now........NOTHING!!!!! those poor children are helpless because of the fear of the backlash. Religion and culture are no excuse!!!!

      Delete
  9. It is heartbreaking what these children are going through - they are easy targets and kindoki seems to be being used & abused by those in a powerful role in a community.
    The documentary did not cover other influencing factors sufficiently but it absolutely terrifies me the single-minded belief that this abuse is right - this dogmatic belief type is evident in/as a consequence of all evangelical religions and practices. Treating each other decently should come before any religious and/or cultural beliefs and practices.
    One key point was that this practice is occurring in the UK and must be prevented. We cannot do much in the congo,at this moment, but we can here.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Part of the documentary covered street children who had been rejected by their families because of accusations of kindoki, it covered in some detail the dangers street children face and the difference in the difficulties faced by girls to boy's. I couldn't comprehend how girl's can be in the wrong with the law in Congo for trivial petty crimes in comparison to male boys, yet the crimes of abusing innocent vunerable children goes unpunished.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I agree with all that has been said re appalling abusive of kids, more shocking because perpetrated by smiling women 'pastors', clearly thinking they are not in the wrong or they would not have wanted to be filmed. I also can try to understand the causes as explained by the writer of the blog, colonialism, poverty, war all contribute. But we also saw one Christian pastor not employing such sadistic means to exorcise his congregation, so the bottom line is children are being tortured in the name of religion, which is surely completely unacceptable to us all and IS happening here in the UK too, albeit in a more secretive and smaller way.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Let's also remember that witches were burned to death here and in Europe not that long ago and also in the name of Christianity

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said

      Delete
    2. that was hundreds of years ago.

      Delete
    3. Hundreds of years ago - and in ignorance. What was done to those children was meaningful and deliberate torture in a time when we should know better. Evil sprits in a 5 year old who is killing people and drinking their blood? Please please please stop this mindless abuse.

      Delete
  13. all i will say is that to treat anyone this way especially a child is an insult to god ..... jesus said the kingdom of heaven belonged to children , so who is anyone to hurt them in his name?
    these pasters need to re sit their paster exam, they are not and will never be chosen by god , they want money an do not care anout the well being of the children. you can not blame the present on the past. because moving on is all about rising above thee hurt and oppresion. there will never be any justification for this.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I really like this blog post, thank you for putting it up. It just shows that we need to educate ourselves before trying to raise awareness on what we think is a major issue in the Congo. There is a root to all evil - poverty, illness, political instability. And only by tackling these issues will we be able to make a difference on child abuse in the Congo. And the sources are great thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Omg!! I had to switch it off when the little boy was bein abused!! Im still cryin about it "( that poor poor boy and soo many others! What is wrong with people..i really hope this will be stopped :'(

    ReplyDelete
  16. Isn't it sad how some Africans jump on the defense and say that Kevani Kanda did not GET IT?
    Who wouldn't? I am African from Kenya and seeing what I saw turned my stomach around. How can a bunch of illiterate adults get away with force feeding a child with hot palm oil, starving him for three days and giving him an enema with it?
    What about the girl who was burnt so bad she couldn't move?
    IT IS WRONG in so many levels and anyone who says that we don't understand whatever was going on should seriously consider hanging themselves. SERIOUSLY.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Religion is the root of all evil, and I have officially lost my faith in humanity.
    Here is my take on the documentary http://tinda-dailycrossroads.blogspot.co.uk/

    ReplyDelete
  19. Child abuse is wrong. There is nothing that can ever excuse it. No cultural, historical, political or religious reasons. It is every adults responsibility to look after children. Abusing children is a choice adults make, those pastors know exactly what they are doing, preying on the worst of human fears and capitalising on it. Those children have human rights, and should be protected by them

    ReplyDelete
  20. This programm was so disgusting to watch as a couple people had commented I couldn't also sleep. The girl who presented the documentary could have stopped the abuse from the little boy instead of him being abused. This was horrific and I couldnt stand it. I want to know if the little boy removed from this location.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is very sad the fact that so many of us will use religion to hurt, steal, kill each other. this is not the congo us congolese want to see. but because we lack truth to ourselves will lead us to do and believe to evil. very nice post brother, here is my blog please show support http://kitokoart.blogspot.co.uk/

    ReplyDelete