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Memory Tales: Representations of Shembe in the Cultural Discourse of African Renaissance

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

The discourse on African Renaissance in South Africa shapes the current stage of a post-apartheid political culture of memory. One of the frameworks of this negotiation of the past is the representation of religion. In particular, religious traditions that formerly occupied a marginalised status in Africanist circles are assimilated into a choreography of memory to complement an archive of liberation struggle. With respect to one of the most influential African Instituted Churches in South Africa, the Nazareth Baptist Church founded by Isaiah Shembe, this article traces an array of memory productions that range from adaptive and mimetic strategies to contrasting textures of church history. Supported by a spatial map of memory, these alternative religious traditions are manifested inside as well as outside the church. Against a hegemonic Afrocentrist vision, they are assembled from fragments of an intercultural milieu of early Nazareth Baptist Church history.


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