Thursday, August 8, 2013
Thursday, August 1, 2013
In Joseph R. Alila’s spiritual anthropological novel, THE WISE ONE OF RAMOGILAND, the arrival of a colonial master in Kenya presents a new spiritual reality to a very religious people, who quickly adapt to the new spiritual situation in the land. Now, as a battery of “colonial forces” conspire against Africa's old way of life, wizards and prophets, who are losing clients of the ordinary kind to the new Christian houses of worship, quickly adapt to the new spiritual reality, even if it only means taking funny-sounding Greek names.
The heroine in this novel, Angelina Nyangi (The Wise One) is born into the new spiritual reality at the dawn of Colonial Kenya. Born prematurely to a family of minor Luo priests, Nyangi survives only because her young father (Rajulu) ignores the advice of his father (Adoko) to “throw the
Talk of bedroom evangelism, like her mother, Nyangi marries a young Seer, but she has a “soft spot” for Christianity, and she soon leads her husband, Omogi the Seer, to take a baptismal vow and a “Christian name,” Mikael, to boot. But fate soon speaks, and Nyangi becomes a widow early into her marriage. Ironically, Nyangi, a clueless daughter of a Christian pastor, suddenly becomes the guardian of a priesthood, whose Stool is struggling to remain relevant in light of a strong Christian wave sweeping through the land at the dawn of Kenya’s independence.
Nyangi lives to be ninety-four years of age, acting a Seer’s role in Kamlai; she even counsels restless politicians and other (elitist) fortune seekers who are groping for space in the treacherous multiethnic, multiparty democracy. For decades Nyangi would walk with secrets of the lowly and mighty of her time, while she awaits the nod to transfer the Stool of Wisdom to son Thomas, who is anything but priestly in his conducts. If Angelina Nyangi’s longevity has become abusive, the seedy extramarital escapades of her eldest son continue to hang around her neck like thorny chalice, with which she has to bear.
Nyangi’s lifetime experiences remind the reader that modern religious dispensations might have robbed soothsayers and wizards of a lot of clients of the ordinary kind but not the important ones: She discovers that the new political and business elites love to have their ancestors’ “sixth sense” watching over their backs. She is their ancestral sixth sense, only she is a mere counselor, and not prophet.