Provides insight into the culture and society of the Chagga people
Bruno Gutmann (1876-1966) was a German Lutheran missionary. In 1902 he went to Chaggaland on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Deutsch-Ostafrika (now Tanzania) and stayed with brief interruptions for 36 years. Owing to his ‘intensive involvement with a single tribe in East Africa,’ stated Ernst Jäschke, his successor, ‘he was able to understand and love them as no other European did.’
Gutmann published 23 books and 476 articles about the Chagga, including a Swahili hymnal and a Kichagga New Testament. He wrote: ‘The so-called “primitive races” are not childish organisms and easily manageable, as some believe. Not only does the spirit of past generations live within them, but extinct cultures also smoulder within their souls. Would, therefore, that, in addition to bringing in the disintegrating influences of our civilization, the colonial powers might provide constructive and sensible development programs that use creatively indigenous forms for service to the whole community, else ineradicable life forces flare up unexpectedly like flames from a ruined structure.’
Poetry and Thinking of the Chagga is the first and only English translation of Gutmann’s first book, Dichten und Denken der Dschagganeger: Beiträge zur ostafrikanischen Volkskunde, in which he describes the Chagga’s clan legends, ancestor worship, chiefdom rule, marriage, childbirth, notions of death (the ‘Realm of the Dead’), mourning and burial customs, the exalted position accorded to warriors, superstitions, fears of curses and ‘curse pots’, reliance on sorcerers and witch doctors, and ideas about the sun, the moon and God.
An ethnologist and missiologist, Gutmann, according to Boston University’s School of Theology, ‘became justly famous for his studies on Chagga religion, society, and customs, which remained unsurpassed…’ This new edition of his seminal study will be of interest to today’s English-speaking Africanists and students of missionary history.
Ilona Gruber Drivdal is a German anthropologist. After finishing her study of the Chagga at the University of Bergen, she taught Anthropology at Hedmark University and for the past twenty years has organized seminars and encouraged and advised tour groups regarding Gutmann’s work. Shelby Tucker has written several books including The Last Banana: Dancing with the Watu. ‘He is an author who has a deep understanding and experience of Africa.’ Catholic Herald, 30 June 2011.
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