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Before the Eradication of God: the Yoruba Smallpox Deity Shonponna in t m aLuko's One Man, One Wife

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image of Religion and Theology

The Yoruba deity Shonponna, feared as both the bearer of smallpox and the one to whom one could turn for protection therefrom, has been the subject of sporadic international, scholarly enquiry for more than a century. William Bascom, Anthony D. Buckley and others went well beyond late nineteenth-century British colonial observations in their attempts to understand the enduring appeal of this dreaded deity, the banning of whose worship in Nigeria did not prevent adherents from crossing into Benin to continue it. In his novel of 1959, One man, one wife, Yoruba novelist and public health authority Timothy Mofolorunso Aluko offered an internal perspective by illuminating further dimensions of the place of Shonponna in the rapidly changing religious matrix of western Nigeria. This account features a plot that unfolds in the 1920s and 1930s, when Anglican missionaries were adding an increasingly prominent and influe.tial factor to the scene, and therein exploring the confrontation of traditional religious beliefs and practices with Christianity, partly during a smallpox epidemic which intensifies the clash of these two systems.

Affiliations: 1: Department of English University of Stellenbosch Stellenbosch, 7600 Republic of South Africa


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