Voices from Exile: The Mpadist Mission des Noirs in Oshwe’s Prison Camps in the Belgian Congo (1940–1960)

Note: Pricing may changed if you are purchasing on behalf of an institution, or are purchasing from within Africa. You will have a chance to review your actual pricing once you choose to purchase an item.

This is an individual article from a larger publication. Click here to see the entire publication.


Abstract: This article examines the way the religious community of Simon Mpadi (closely related to the better-known Kimbanguist movement) crafted its identity within the colonial penal system in the Belgian Congo, specifically in Oshwe (in today’s Mai-Ndombe province). The article shows that the practice of relégation (domestic deportation) was an important constitutive element in the way Mpadists conceptualized power within the movement, as well as the identity of the movement. By relying mainly on colonial archival documents about the prison camps of Oshwe, including Mpadi’s own letters, and a limited sample of oral history interviews, the article traces how the practice of exile created a colonial “grammar of difference” through isolation and connection. It also focuses on how exiled Mpadists acted upon the inherent tensions of this colonial form of punishment to craft their identity and claim spiritual legitimacy and authority in opposition to others. Like the founders of the officially recognized and broadly studied Kimbanguist Church, Mpadi and his followers claimed legitimate authority over prophet Simon Kimbangu’s spiritual succession. While Kimbanguism has received much attention from historians, this power struggle, from the vantage point of Mpadists, is less well understood in the historiography of the late-colonial era. Given the contemporary relevance of exile in narratives of Mpadists and Kimbanguists, a historical lens can elucidate how these movements legitimize themselves within the current-day pluralist religious landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo.