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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

versión On-line ISSN 2412-4265
versión impresa ISSN 1017-0499

Studia Hist. Ecc. vol.36 no.1 Pretoria may. 2010


Norwegian missionaries and Zulu converts: A case for Bakhtinian dialogue



Hege Roaldset

Department of Cultural Studies and Languages University of Stavanger, Norway




From the arrival of the missionaries in 1844 to the outbreak of the Anglo-Zulu war in 1879, the results of the Norwegian missionary enterprise in Zululand were meagre. The British annexation of Zululand changed the situation, and the missionaries perceived the first decades of the 20th century as "a long great harvest". A closer examination of the source material challenges this understanding. By using dialogical theory, as propounded by Mikhail M. Bakhtin, as a starting point, we may come closer to explaining the missionaries' relative lack of success. Bakhtin stated that each utterance has an addressee and that the speaker formulates the utterance with the addressee and his/her future reactions in mind. If we envisage the encounter between Zulus and Norwegians accordingly, we find that the Norwegian missionaries failed to recognise that the two cultures were engaged in ongoing dialogue and negotiations.



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1 Eric Grillo (ed.), Power without domination: dialogism and the empowering property of communication. (Amsterdam : John Benjamins, 2005), viii.         [ Links ]
2 Ibid., xi.
3 Mikhail M. Bakhtin (1895-1975) was unknown outside the Soviet Union almost until his death. When his ideas became known in the Western world, he was soon hailed as "the most important thinker in the human sciences and the greatest theoretician of literature in the twentieth century." See Tzvetan Todorov, Mikhail Bakhtin: the dialogical principle (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), ix.         [ Links ]
4 Michael Holquist, Dialogism. Bakhtin and his world (London: Routledge, 1990), 15;         [ Links ] Mikhail M. Bakhtin/Rasmus Slaattelid, Sp0rsmalet om talegenrane (Oslo: Pensumtjeneste, 2005) 47-49.         [ Links ] Reprint. (Originally published Bergen: Ariadne, 1998).
5 Mikhail M. Bakhtin, "The problem of the speech genres", in Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (eds) Speech genres and other late essays. M.M. Bakhtin (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007), 67.         [ Links ]
6 Ibid., 68f.
7 Ibid., 92, 94.
8 Mikhail M. Bakhtin, "The problem of the text in linguistics, philology, and the human sciences: an experiment in philosophical analysis", in Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (eds) Speech genres and other late essays. M.M. Bakhtin (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007), 107.         [ Links ]
9 Mikhail M. Bakhtin, "Response to a question from the Novy Mir editorial staff", in Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (eds) Speech genres and other late essays. MM. Bakhtin (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007), 7.         [ Links ]
10 Jeff Guy, The destruction of the Zulu Kingdom. The Civil War in Zululand, 1879-1884 (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1994), xviii.         [ Links ]
11 Ana Maria Monteiro-Ferreira, "Reevaluating Zulu Religion: an Afrocentric analysis", Journal of Black Studies 35/3 (Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, January 2005), 350;         [ Links ] Guy, Destruction, 9-12; Anna Buverud, The King and the honeybirds. Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSalomon. Zulu nationalism and the implementation of the Bantu authorities system in Zululand, 1948-1957, unpublished Masters thesis in history, University of Oslo 2007, 22f.
12 John Laband, "The rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom", in Benedict Carton, John Laband and Jabulani Sithole (eds), Zulu identities: being Zulu, past and present (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu Natal Press, 2008), 88f.
13 "Report of the expedition sent by the Government to install Cetywayo as King of the Zulus", British Parliamentary Papers, C1137, p. 19. Cited after Per Hern
œs, "Zulukongedömmet, norske misjonœrer og britisk imperialisme; 1845-79", in Jarle Simensen (ed): Norsk misjon og afrikanske samfunn. S0r-Afrika ca 1850-1900 (Trondheim: Tapir, 1984), 104.
14 Guy, Destruction , xviii, 4.
15 Guy, Destruction, xix, 41; Stephen Taylor, Shaka's children: a history of the Zulu people (London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995), 274.
16 Irving Hexham, "Lord of the sky - king of the earth: Zulu traditional religion and belief in the sky god", Studies in Religion 10/3 (Wilfrid Laurier University Press: Waterloo, 1981); Taylor, Shaka's children; Monteiro-Ferreira, "Reevaluating Zulu Religion".
17 "Om zuluene nogen gang har hatt nogen forestilling om en höieste guddom, er meget tvilsomt." Johan Kjelvei (ed), Zulu: evangeliets landvinning (Stavanger: Det norske misjonsselskaps tr., 1932), 29.
18 Axel-Ivar Berglund Zulu though-patterns and symbolism (London: Hurst & Company, 1976), 30, 78.         [ Links ]
19 Taylor, Shaka's children, 32.
20 Berglund, Zulu thought-patterns, 136. I am indebted to Prince Bongani kaShelemba Zulu for information on sacred specialists in Zulu Society.
21 Berglund, Zulu thought-patterns, 309 f.
22 John S. Mbiti, African religion and philosophy (Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers, 2002), 2, 262.         [ Links ]
23 An estimated number of 750 000 Norwegians emigrated to the United States in the period 1835-1915. From only one European country, namely Ireland, did a larger part of the population emigrate to the United States.
24 Jostein Nerb0vik, Norsk historie 1860-1914. Eit bondesamfunn i oppbrot (Oslo: Det norske samlaget, 1999); Tore Pryser, Norsk historie 1814-1860. Frâ standssamfunn mot klassesamfunn. (Oslo: Det norske samlaget 1999).
25 BJorg Seland and Olaf Aagedal, Vekkelsesvind. Den norske vekkingskristendommen (Oslo : Det norske samlaget, 2008), 15.
26 BJorg Seland, Religion pâ det frie marked. Folkelig pietisme og bedehuskultur. (Kristiansand: H0yskoleforlaget, 2006),104 ff.
27 Seland and Aagedal, Vekkelsesvind, 13; Seland, Religion pâ det frie marked, 92, 120 and 159.
28 Seland, Religion pa det frie marked, 159.
29 Einar Molland, Norges kirkehistorie i det 19. arhundre (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1979), 146-162;         [ Links ] Simensen, Norsk misjon og afrikanske samfunn, 12-17.
30 NMS archive/Box 1952/Jacket 3/Söknader og eksamensoppgaver for V. Kull 1980-1886 for VI. Kull 1887-1892/jacket 3.
31 The following statistical information is based on source material from the the NMS archive, on an encyclopedia of Norwegian mission, Fridtjov Birkeli (ed), Norsk misjonsleksikon, vol. 1-3 (Stavanger: Nomi, 1965-1967) , and two records from the MHS' website: NMS People and places > List by country > South Africa: List of Norwegian Missionaries working for the Nowegian Missionary Society (NMS) in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa: The statistics comprises only ordained pastors, not teachers, nor midwives or nurses. NMS archive/box 1951/Jacket 1/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for IV. Kull, 1875-1879, NMS archive/box 1951/Jacket 2/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for IV. Kull, 1875-1879, NMS archive/box 1952/Jacket 4/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for VI. Kull, 1887-1892, NMS archive/box 1953/Jacket 2/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for VII. Kull, 1892-1896, NMS archive/box 1953/Jacket 3/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for VII. Kull, 1892-1896, NMS archive/box 1953/Jacket 4/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for VII. Kull, 1897-1902, NMS archive/box 1954/Jacket 1/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for IX. Kull, 1903-1908, NMS archive/box 1954/Jacket 2/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for IX. Kull, 1903-1908, NMS archive/box 1955/Jacket 1/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for X. Kull, 1909-1914, NMS archive/box 1958/Jacket 1/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for XII. Kull, 1915-1921, NMS archive/box 1961/Jacket 1/Söknader og eksamenspapirer for XIV. Kull, 1921-1927.
32 The period 1879 to 1940 are the relevant years for my ongoing PhD project. As part of the research project on Norwegian Mission carried out in Trondheim in the 1970s, Jarle Simensen and Vidar Gynnild examined the social and religious bakcground of the 106 men that were sent out as missionaries for NMS from 1845 to 1903. Jarle Simensen and Vidar Gynnild, "Norske misjon
œrer på 1800-tallet: Mentalitet, sosial profil og foreningsbakgrunn", in Simensen (ed), Norsk misjon og afrikanske samfunn, pp. 11-56.
33 Berge Furre, "Sundagen var annleis. Preikesundagen som ritual og institusjon", in Svein Aage Christoffersen (ed), Moralsk og moderne? Trekk av den kristne moraltradisjon i Norge fra 1814 til i dag. (Oslo: Ad Notam Gyldendal, 1999), 59.         [ Links ]
34 E.g. Nils Braatvedt (1847-1943) and Sven Eriksen (1854-1925). NMS archive/Box1951/Jacket 2; Killie Campbell archives/KCM 65241/Lawrence Titlestad, Under the Zulu Kings.
35 E.g. Lars Berge (1851-1934) and Jon Tvedt (1871-1910). NMS archive/Box 1951/Jacket 1, NMS archive/Box 1953/Jacket 1.
36 Alexander Kielland, "Misjonen (18.7.1890), in Samlede verker, vol 3 (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1999), 339.
37 David Chidester, Savage systems, colonialism and comparative religion in Southern Africa (Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1996), 38;         [ Links ] Jack Goody, The logic of writing and the organization of society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), xi, 10.         [ Links ]
38 Mbiti, African religions and philosophy, 233.
39 Olav Guttorm Myklebust, "S0r-Afrika", in John Nome (ed) Det Norske Misjonsselskap 1842-1942, (Stavanger: Dreyer, 1949), 62         [ Links ]
40 Ibid., 89: "Zulufolkets sammenbrudd som selvstendig folk skapte [bedre] arbeidsvilkár for misjonsarbeidet i ytre forstand."
41 Ibid., 132: "Tida siden 1900 har v
œrt en eneste stor innh0stingstid for misjonen i Sor-Afrika."
42 Chidester, Savage systems, 127-136.
43 NMS archive, Minutes from Missionary Conference 1906: "Vi var ikke kommet for bare at pr
œdike. Civilisationen kan aldrig losrives fra kristendommen eller omvendt. Forst nar de indfodte kom saa langt, at de kunde lœse en engelsk avis, vilde der ogsaa vœre haab om, at de kunde tilegne sig noget civilisation."
44 NMS archive/box 105-3/Congregation meeting Mahlabatini, 14.7.1914 and NMS archive/box 104/Congregation meeting Umpumulo, 22.-24.7.1910.
45 NMS archive/Box 102-104/Protocol Empangeni; NMS archive/Box 102-104/Protocol Umbonambi; NMS archive/box 105-2/Protocol Ongoye 1991-1940. The minutes from congregation meetings at Ongoye show that each congregation meeting began with the election of a notetaker, regularly a Zulu person. The handwriting in the protocol, however, is identical no matter who took the minutes. The explanation for this is probably that the initial minutes were considered a draft that the missionary later wrote out properly in the minute book. If so, even in the minutes from the Zulus' own meetings, the missionaries' presence is unmistakable.
46 Hanna Mellemsether, Misjon
œrer, settlersamfunn og afrikansk opposisjon. Striden om selvstendiggjoring i den norske Zulukirken, Sor-Afrika, ca 1920-1930. (Trondheim: Historisk institutt NTNU, 2001), 139 f.
47Polygami - Monogami: Med s
œrlig henblikkpà kirkens situasjon iAfrika. Komité nedsatt av det norske misjonsselskap og lœrerràdet vedMisjonsskolen, (Stavanger: MHS, 1982), 3.
48 The ministerial book from Nhlazatshe. It is kept at the Nhlazatshe mission station. Photographed November 2008.
49 Wallace G. Mills, "Missionaries, Xhosa Clergy and the suppression of traditional customs", in Henry Bredenkamp and Robert Ross (eds), Mission and Christianity in South African history (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1995), 172.
50 Seland, Religion på det frie marked, 117 and 180.
51 NMS archive/box 105-3/Congregation meeting Mahlabatini, 14.7.1914.
52 NMS archive Minutes from Missionary conference 1909: "Hvilket standpunkt b0r vi indta til de hedenske skikke, som f0lges i vore menigheder?"
53 NMS archive Minutes from the Missionary Conference, Eshowe 13.-27.5.1911: "De hedenske l
œger har vel til dels gode mediciner, men den moralske indflydelse, som disse troldmœnd har over folket, er stor."
54 NMS archive/Diary from Esinyamboti 19.1.1935.
55 Berglund, Zulu though-patterns and symbolism, 210-213.
56 See for instance NMS archive/Box 102-104/Ministerial Book Empangeni; Wallace, Missionaries, Xhosa Clergy, 153.
57 Kille Campbell archive/KCM 8362a/Karl Larsen Titlestad file 1/Diary of Karl Larsen Titlestad/17.2.1891.
58 The so-called Ethiopian Churches. Bengt G.M. Sundkler, Bantu prophets in South Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), 29; Taylor, Shakas Children, 292.
59 David Chidester, Religions of South Africa (London: Routledge, 1992), xiii f.
60 Myklebust Det norske misjonsselskaps historie, 89.
61 Killie Campbell archive/KCM 8362a/Karl Larsen Titlestad file 1/Diary of Karl Larsen Titlestad/17.2.1891.
62 Mellemsether, Misjon
œrer, settlersamfunn og afrikansk opposisjon, 267.
63 Richard Elphick, "Introduction. Christianity in South Africa", in Rickard Elphick and T.R.H. Davenport (eds), Christianity in South Africa. A Political, Social and Cultural History (Cape Town: David Philip, 1997), 12.

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