The Role of Lamentation in African Biblical Hermeneutics: A Post-Colonial Reading of the Bible among Gĩkũyũ People of Kenya
Wanjao, Joseph M.
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The main focus of this study is to investigate how the biblical and African motifs of lamentation function in the development of critical text-reading methods among the Agĩkũyũ. More specifically it interrogates why Bible reading methods and literacy materials exported to Gĩkũyũland by the dominant European cultures have perpetually placed the ordinary Africans and colonialists in a contact zone of inequalities and constant conflicts. For this reason, the study analyzes Rachel‟s narrative of lamentation and weeping in Jeremiah 31: 15-17 as a colonial and post-colonial encounter in a reading context that values the core beliefs of text-readers in their daily struggle for survival. To achieve this task, the study probes the socio-economic and political aspects of lamentation for a new understanding of the Bible in its countenance of actual realities of life among the illiterate hearers, interpreters and re-tellers of the Bible story in Gĩkũyũ context. The methodology used has been informed by socio-economic conditions, indigenous worldview, encounter with missionaries‟ hermeneutics and the ontological questions that confront ordinary text-readers today. In the endeavor to reflect on text-reading from Agĩkũyũ and biblical motifs of lamentation, the research reflects on text-reading from premeditated Gĩkũyũ perspective of lamentation. In doing this, the research employed Brueggemann‟s (1995: 8-9) Orientation-Disorientation-New orientation theory; because of its multi-dimensional approach in interpreting the biblical text. The study is descriptive and employs qualitative method of research in Nyandarũa and Kĩambu Counties of Central Kenya. The informants include ordinary text-readers (Bible study groups, theological education groups), pastors/evangelists, ex-Mau Mau war veterans, and the elders who witnessed Mũthĩrĩgũ dance; totaling 329 informants. The instruments used to collect the data include observation, oral interviews and field note-taking. The study utilizes a comparative analogical method; whereby biblical and Agĩkũyũ motifs of lamentation have been used to interpret and appropriate the biblical text, in response to readers‟ needs, aspirations and thought patterns. The entire study consists of six chapters: Chapter one covers the background to the study, the review of related literature and the methodology. Chapter two explores the socio-economic and political situation of the Gĩkũyũ community, which has served as a contextual bridge between chapters one and two. Chapter three expounds on missionaries‟ attitudes towards lamentation in relation to contemporary denial of lamentation in text-reading process. Chapter four makes a presentation of hermeneutical conclusion of Rachel‟s narrative of lamentation in Jeremiah 31:15-17. Chapter five makes a theological reflection on Agĩkũyũ experience in order to initiate action plan of disengaging from oppression; while chapter six presents a general appraisal of research findings, their significance and limitations; it suggests a continuous action-reflection cycle.