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18.06.2011    17:29


94 Years Mbunda Bible Translation History Work Reveals Some Missionaries Animosity Against Mbunda Speaking People



When the Africa  Evangelical Fellowship (then called the South African General Mission) entered Angola in 1914, the mission faced a new set of challenges and opportunities. Up until then, AEF had operated entirely in British territories where the difficulties encountered were mainly those of climate, health and the opposition of paganism. Angola was a Portuguese colony and the officials at least nominally Roman Catholic. However, by studying in Portugal, to lean the language and culture of the Portuguese, and by abstaining from political activity, AEF was able to maintain a satisfactory relationship with the authorities.


Rev. Albert Bailey, challenged by veteran missionary Fred Arnot, with a vision of thousands of people dying without Christ in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Angola, threw himself wholeheartedly into the task of opening up vast areas to the preaching of the Word of God.


After opening two mission stations in Northern Rhodesia, Mr. Bailey made an exploratory trek into Angola. In 1914 he opened a mission station on Luanginga River and, with the aid of the Mbunda Speaking man from Rhodesia, engaged in compiling a vocabulary – one of the first steps in the acquisition of an unwritten language.


A group of African Christians returning to Congo with Gospel message encountered Mr. Barley and, being short of food, decided to remain with him a season to plant and harvest a new food crop. Their testimony, added to Mr. Bailey’s, strengthened the Gospel witness and soon three out-stations were established.


Still in 1914, a revolt by the Mbunda Speaking People against the Portuguese Colonialists following the abduction of King Mbandu Kapova of the Mbundaland to the east of Angola caused large numbers of the local people to flee across the border into Rhodesia. In 1916, Mr. Bailey decided to find a more populated location and, with the Governor’s permission, built a station at Muie, in Mbundaland, under siege from the Portuguese Colonialists. In 1918, following the fall of Mbundaland at the hands of the Portuguese Colonialists in 1917, J. Jakeman and Andrew McGill relieved Mr. Bailey and established a number of out-posts among the Mbunda and Luchazi people.


In the ensuing years, four more stations were established: Cunjamba, Ninda, Casuango and Catota all in the fallen Mbundaland. In 1937 Mr. and Mrs. Pearson initiated a Bible Training School at Muie, with the New Testament (published in 1935) as their only textbook. At Muie Leonard and Nellie Brain had charge of the church work and operation of the mission station. http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/trans/252t01.htm


However, Rev and Mrs. Emil Pearson missionary work which they started in Angola from 1919 to Sept. 1966 turned out to be a fight against the Mbunda Speaking People as opposed to Missionary J.W.V. Jakeman work who was in favour of using the Mbunda language in ministry work. Despite the hospitality from the Mbundas, they joined the Portuguese Colonialists in increasing animosity between the Mbundas and their Luchazi brothers.


Mbundas wanted their bible to be translated in Mbunda language, but they quickly concluded that Mbunda, Luchazi and Nyemba were the same and decided to translate the Luchazi bible instead. They joined the Portuguese Colonialists because after the Mbunda Portuguese war which started in 1914, following the abduction of King Mbandu Kapova of the Mbunda Speaking People, the Portuguese wanted Mbunda language completely wiped out of Angola and replaced by Luchazi language. If you went to Angola today, you will find the Mbunda spoken there is heavily saturated with Luchazi language. This is the more reason why the Mbundas then wanted to protect their mother language.











Mr.: Elija Kavita (97) left and Mr. Jeremiah Maliti Nkwanda (99) on 1st January, 2006.


This fight against the Mbundas was continued by Missionary Brain in Luampa, Kaoma District in Zambia http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/trans/252t02.htmwho continued to fight the Mbundas by his reporting a Mr. Elijah Kabita who was instrumental in translating the Mbunda Bible that he was a witch. All what Mr. Kabita was alleged to have uttered was that he will kill some people for fighting the Mbunda Bible translation. Missionary Brain insinuated that since an African threat to kill was not by a gun, Mr. Kabita might have meant killing by witchcraft. This supposition caused Mr. Kabita to be removed from the translation team, and the Mbunda Bible translation work came to a standstill in 1982, http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/trans/252t05.htm thanks to Cheke Cultural Writers Association who revived it in 1986. Missionary Brain was deported from Zambia and blamed his deportation on the Mbundas.  http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/trans/252t06.htm  Quoting Missionary Brain's words: "It is interesting to note that Emil Pearson chose to work with the Luchazi tribe rather than the vaMbunda. Pearson's daughter, Edla, my fellow missionary in Zambia, told me that the vaMbunda wanted her father to work with their tribe, but he preferred ministry among the Luchazi. He found the vaMbunda rowdy and aggressive. In contrast, the Luchazi people were gentle, peaceable and orderly".


Another comment from the so called Missionaries was as follows: "In 1987, the vaMbunda (spearheaded by local 'Christians' who were also political types, succeeded in bringing about the deportation of a missionary couple at Luampa. Part of the reason for chasing out these missionaries was their emphasis on the use of the Luchazi language and written materials. The old resentment surrounding this issue can be seen in the words of the Cheke Cultural Writers: 'The dissident missionaries led by E. Pearson, translated the Bible into the Luchazi language, contrary to the purpose of J.W.V. Jakeman who was in favour of using the Mbunda language, in missionary work. Pearson dropped the use of the Mbunda language in Mbunda regions in favour of the Luchazi language'".


However, Mbunda Speaking People are aware that missionaries like Pearson and Brain put their confrontation with Mbundas in archives http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/GUIDES/252.htm, where all other missionaries coming to Zambia access it and conceive that Mbundas are bad people and unreligious. They further insinuated that because of this, Mbundas live in small villages as opposed to the Luchazis. To the contrary, Mbundas believe in extended family system, thereby living in large villages with a Mbanja or ndthzango (traditional court) in the middle of the village, where all men in the villages assemble and spend their time discussing family issues. Touring through Western Province of Zambia  today and a rebuilding Eastern Angola, one can still find large Mbunda Villages sprawled all over, despite the demise of extended family systems in most African setup today.  One such a village called Kalyangu Village is still found in Kaoma and missionaries like Pearson and Brain know about it. Mbundas are God fearing from inception. Long ago they knew, that there is God the Creator and that there also were their ancestors. Their only problem before Christian Ministry was witnessed to them was that they approached God through their ancestors as opposed to through Jesus Christ. Today Mbunda Speaking People have many well respected Mbunda Reverends, Pastors, name it. To perceive that Mbundas are unreligious is wrong and tantamount to judging them, which is against the Bible.


Missionaries today, are therefore urged to be seen to work for God, like Jesus Christ did. They should not load it on others, or make religion as a way of earning a living. Mbundas are good people to work with but they hate subjugation.


The battle for Mbunda Bible translation in Mbunda language continued. During a Mbunda workshop conducted by Dr. Hope in 1987 participants requested that the writing of certain words in Mbunda should be standardised and, that the translators should be guided as to how to write certain Mbunda words. However, on 17th April 1989 Cheke Cultural Writers Association met and resolved to drop the argument on the four major Luchazi spelling problems of s, z, nz and ts as opposed to the Mbunda th, thz, ths and ndthz and, go ahead with the translation as there was always room for revision. The point in mind was that, the Bible Society had received requests to review the writing in the Lozi and Bemba bibles.



The Mbunda Bible was finally printed and launched in the year 2008 in Angola and Zambia.  However the Mbunda Bible translation is still heavily saturated with Luchazi spellings.


The Pearson English-Ngangela Dictionary published in 1971 in Angola is another case in point; in which he tried to hoodwink the World to believe that Ngangela is a language in Angola. The dictionary is a mixture of Luchazi, Mbunda, Nyemba and some other languages in Eastern Angola, which is confusing and not helpful. Ngangela should be understood as it is in Angola, meaning Eastern Angola. The truth of the matter is that most of the tribes and languages in eastern Angola apart from Chokwes and Luvales have their roots leading to the Mbunda Speaking People whom the Portuguese Colonialists and some Missionaries wanted to wipe out completely out of Angola (their lean age lead to Chinguli, Mbaao and Kaamba, the Mbunda fifth, sixth and seventh Monarch at the confluence of Kwilu/Kasai rivers and Mithimoyi respectively – check revelations in subsequent news items to follow).


The only perceived offence the Mbundas committed against the so called Missionaries is to advocate worshipping their God in their own mother language!


For more information, read Mbunda History Book, 2011 Edition, from page 275.

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