Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa by J. W. Fernandez

By J. W. Fernandez

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While the dialectical point of view desires sharp and useful contradictions to emerge from inquiry, religions like Bwiti are at a stage of argument and action that desires the emergence of the opposite-a general and assuaging sense of unity. Though the inftuence of literacy in religion tends, by making it possible to write thingsdown for recurrent reference, to Iead to dogmatic and canonical attitudes, there is very little of that in Bwiti. Perhaps this is because the literacy is latent and not practiced widely.

N One must Iisten to Fang wisdom on this matter, as found in proverbs repeatedly put forth to us. They say ayong ese da kik ngui anena (each clan cuts up the wild pig in its own fashion). They say ndafore, binong bibe (one house, two beds). They say fofon ye ngem gern (adzidzit ye ongengem) (each animal [bat] has his particular way of feeling shame). Perhaps it would be wise to coin my own proverb in the spirit of Fang wisdom, nyugele ase a tsile akikh nten (dzile aba die amien) (every teacher writes his unique book).

Profoundly impressed as the chiefs were, their dignity was not disturbed. At last Mequet asked them directly if they were anthropophages. It was a question that preoccupied the French more than the Americans. The chief responded, ··No," smiling in a sincere manner. Mequet was disposed to accept this ans wer. " 17 While Mequet's report set the tone for later contacts, the denial of cannibalism was generally ignored. This disposition can be seen in his companionin-anns, Braouezec, who a decade later explored beyond Mequet's route on the Bekoue 18 and up the Corno to the foothills of Lhe Cristal Mountains.

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