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Activity of the German Christian missions in South West Africa and transformation of local societies (1842-1914)

s. V. Butaly



Work is presented by department of east regional studies of the Krasnodar institute of economy, the right and humanitarian specialties. The research supervisor - the doctor of historical sciences, professor Yu.G. Smertin

In article the main stages of formation of the German Christian missions in South West Africa in the 19-20th centuries are considered. Activities of missionaries for distribution of Christianity and the European culture among local community are analyzed. The discrepancy of this process and its influence on transformation of local societies is shown.

The main stages of formation of German Christian missions in South-West Africa in the 19th-20th centuries are considered in the paper. The author analyses the activity of missionaries who were spreading Christianity and European culture among the locals. The inconsistency of this process and its influence on transformation of local societies are shown.

History of colonialism is inseparably linked with activity of Christian missions. The German colonialism was not

exception. The aspiration to acquisition of colonies in Germany was shown at once after creation of the empire in 1871

To a large extent it was connected with rapid economic growth and search of the place by Germany in quickly changing world which entered the first phase of globalization.

Germany for a number of reasons was late to the partition of the world and now wanted to make up for lost time. Not only ruling circles, but also the general public laid great hopes on creation of the German colonial empire (Kolonialreich). Germans assumed to take enormous benefits from this enterprise, receiving from the overseas countries raw materials for violently developing industry, expanding trade in the German goods, creating new investment opportunities. The colonialism had to civilize the natives who wallowed in a gloom of ignorance, extend on the world of the benefit of the German culture and the Christ's Gospel. In the most concentrated look these ideas were expressed by the inspector of the German missions Friedrich Fabri in his book "Whether Colonies Are Necessary to Germany?" (Fabri F. Bedarf Deutschland der Colonien? Eine politische-ekonomische Betrachtung. Gotha, 1897), the become milestone in the German colonial historiography. He answered the question in the affirmative and considered that colonies are necessary to a Reich as the market for export and a raw materials source as territories where Germans will find the new house under the German flag, saving thus the fatherland from overpopulation threat. Fabri believed that colonization will become the valve for easing of social tension in Germany and blocks revolutionary aspirations of social democrats, and in colonies the Germans civilize and will convert the native people to Christianity.

Missionary societies actively lobbied colonial expansion of Germany. They had a certain political impact. Catholic

missionaries had communications with Center party in the Reichstag, Protestant groups were closely connected with dealers and officials. Though between them there were internal disagreements, in general missionaries agreed that Germany has to extend as due to religious influence, and carrying out policy of occupation of overseas territories. They considered that "the German sword has to be thrown on a scale in fight against slave traders and pagan militarists in Africa" [8, river 28].

The German missionaries already had some experience with Africans, in particular in South West Africa. After the English occupation of Cape colony in 1806 the London missionary society developed activity here. In 1814 its management sent German I.G. Shmelen who founded the first missionary station in Bethanie to South West Africa. Later, in 1825, the British Uesleyensky Methodist church (called so by name the founder Uesley) sent to this region of the Reverend William Trefol, but it and two of its African the satellite were killed by Bushmen near Varmbad. Eight years later the Reverend Edward Cook founded the Methodist station in Varmbada. Its efforts for several years to Christianity converted more than one thousand bonds-delsvartov (group of a nam). Methodist missions were open in east part of the Country of a nam, on the river Nossob, and in the north, in Rekhobota. About 1865 these stations were transferred to the Rhine missionary society, and even earlier, in 1840, it began to control the station of the London missionary society in Bethanie [6, river 385].

The Rhine missionary society which headquarters was in the German city the Bartender distributed the Protestant version of Christianity

in Cape colony. G. Shmelen advised to pay attention to the Country of a nam to its management insistently. In the second half of the 19th century. The Rhine mission performed the main work on evangelization of the population of the SKID. G. Kleinshmidt and G. Khan and also G. Sheppman and I. Rat who arrived a little later became her first missionaries in 1842.

Shepman founded the missionary station in the Country gerero, to Roybank (area Walvis Bay) where rather freshened waters. Rat opened a mission for gerero in Otzhimbingva on the Svakop River. Khan and Kleinshmidt tried to locate in Okakhandzhe, but the lack here of water in droughty 1844 forced them to move in more successful Otzhi-kango located approximately in 20 km to the southwest. Here was the missionary station, the called Gross Bartender, in honor of the headquarters of the Rhine missionary society is founded.

In the 1870th in the SKID there arrived the new German missionaries who played an important role its stories: K. Buettner, Y. - Ya. Irle, F. Eykh, etc. By the end of the 1870th the German missionaries christened about 2400 a nam and gerero [1, page 30; 7, b. 115].

Missionaries played an important, though contradictory role in change of a way of life of natives. They taught children and adults to read and write in language Afrikaans (cape-Dutch), become lingua franca in the SKID, performed functions of doctors, psychiatrists, pharmacists, etc. [14, river 128-190; 9, river 19-87].

Missionaries opened shops in the territory of missions and were engaged in sale of the European goods. For coordination of efforts and increase in profits the German missionaries created Missionary trade joint-stock company which, among other things, was engaged in export of firearms in 1879.

Activity of missionaries took place in difficult conditions, but in general was fruitful. In the official document which sums up the short result of missionary activity during the period preceding establishment of the German protectorate it was noted: "They (natives. - Pages of B.) live in a nasty thing and defect, improbable dirt and continuous ignorance. In internal wars on-ma and gerero which proceeded decades people and the property of both parties were destroyed in large quantities... The Reverend M. Brinkner was forced to escape seven times from the station Gross Bartender, and lives of missionaries repeatedly were exposed to huge danger. However the handful of the people who are cut off from other civilized world desperately and persistently continues the work, despite all these troubles and disappointments. Missionaries put a lot of effort to master difficult languages of a nam and gerero, they created writing in these languages. Moreover, over time they created various native literature in these languages. They explored still unopened territories up to the Country ovam-bo, constructed roads, built houses, churches, schools, entered new agricultural and garden cultures, trained natives in housekeeping, sewing and gardening... It is a lot of cities and villages, such as Windhoek, Gobabis, Okakhandzha and to Omarur, are obliged by the existence to constructive work of the Rhine mission" [12, river 67].

It should be noted that missionaries also made the significant contribution to "scientific colonialism". Such priests as Heinrich Fedder who wrote classical works on history and ethnology of South West Africa played a significant role in "opening" to -

loniya. Missions published a large number of dictionaries, grammars of local languages, ethnographic works which were of value for erudite and educated people.

Influence of missionaries was deep and various. It extended even to fashion. As A.S. Ba-lezin notes, exactly in those days there was a phenomenon known as "traditional clothes of female-gerero" - the long and magnificent Victorian dresses copied from toilets of missionary wives and complemented with the head scarf tied in a special way [1, page 30].

The nomadic way of life of local community as regular trainings were necessary for successful religious training was one of the main difficulties in activity of missionaries. The discrepancy, and sometimes and contrast of social institutes and moral installations of a nam and gerero with Christian standards was other problem. Serious damage was caused to Christian missions during frequent internal wars. Missionary stations were at the same time and the military centers; the building of church was some kind of fortress during breeding and clan wars, missionaries even supplied the flock with firearms [2, page 37; 9, river 79]. Except the Rhine mission in the SKID conducted work and other missionary societies, but in much smaller scale. The Finnish missionary society was one of them. The Rhine mission in G. Khan's face advised the Finnish mission to be proved in the Country ovambo, and its activity began in 1870. First progress was more than modest. In 20 years only 21 persons were converted to Christianity [15, rubles 161], however many ovambo, though were not christened, lived at missions and adopted some lines of the European life. Missionaries persistently were engaged

evangelization, education, treatment of local community. The Finnish society still is the most powerful Christian organization in the Country ovambo.

Catholic missionaries appeared in the SKID late enough. The first, but unsuccessful attempt to found the station in Omarura belongs to 1879. Catholics wanted to adjust work among groups ovam-bo, living on the Okavongo River, but these attempts "failed because of the enormous difficulties caused by lack of intermedia and unhealthy kley-magic conditions" [12, river 66]. In 1896 Catholics bought at the Rhine mission of the earth under the station in Klein Windhoek, and founded several stations in different parts of the country later, including near Okavongo in 1910

By the time of establishment of the German protectorate over South West Africa in 1884. The Rhine missionary society most deeply got into breeding life gerero and a nama. G. Khan wrote: "Our arrival and resettlement... made the favorable, stimulating impact on gerero, far exceeded all my expectations. Never earlier gerero sowed, did not weed and did not prepare the fields for crops with such eagerness. And now they were seriously taken for construction. Kamagerero (leader gerero. - The page of B.) builds to itself the solid house. The leader Willem Zerav follows his example. The Kakuoba, the candidate for a baptism, erects to himself the cozy house, and two more candidates for a baptism from gerero are going to build small houses. They are the miracles which are made before our eyes. Who could assume several years ago that they gerero will come to us and to order for a payment of a door and window!" [tsit. on: 2, page 36].

However some missionaries from time to time faced hostility of leaders as, proceeding from the prin-

tsip of justice and legality, interfered with their relations with tribespeople. Nevertheless in crisis times the traditional authorities often addressed them for council and the management. Perhaps, caused suspicion and mistrust and the fact that missionaries combined spiritual activity with trade, but in general by the beginning of the German colonization the Africans generally had for them trust and respect.

However also, one of them is associated with the Methodist missionary Headdi whom the head to gottentotov-eagles Yonker Afrkaa-ner accused of providing to the government of Cape colony of prospecting information on events in the Country of a nam. There was one contradiction, a cat - a swarm remained unsolvable. On the one hand, missionaries through development of trade promoted progress of local community, and with another - they were associated with the European colonial expansion from Cape colony. Therefore Yonker said that missionaries are "the traitors attempting upon our earth, preachers of a lie, the blaspheming liars... You were sent to tame us. You built the house and seem friendly, and dealers come then. and seekers of copper ore (from South Africa. - Page of B.). You want to make with us what was already made with the people of the Small country of a nam (the field of resettlement of a nam in Cape colony. - Page of B.) - to select our lands" [10, river 29-39]. Such statements widely extended over the Country of a nam, and for the missionaries who did not have such intentions there came hard times because they generated mistrust among the people with which they long time lived in the world. At the same time Yonker was closely connected with the missionary Khan serving in Noy-Barmene (Otzhikango) and supported him. They about -

menivatsya by letters, gifts, visited each other within twenty years. If to speak in general, then the Christianity by the beginning of the German colonization became an essential factor of the political, social and economic relations in South West Africa.

Missionaries are accused sometimes that they were supporters of establishment of the German protectorate [5, page 14; 11]. Perhaps, it is fair, but it is necessary to understand that they had own purposes not always coinciding with advocates of the colonial idea in Germany. Missionaries saw the main obstacle for the activity continuous internal wars between tribes and clans and believed that in the region the emergence of the strong power which would establish an order is necessary and extended effect of laws to all population. They as could helped to establish at least the fragile world. In 1870 when the big conflict between gerero was about to happen and to eagles, the Rhine missionaries resorted to diplomacy, and in Okakhandzhe the peace treaty between Magarero and Yonke-rom Afrikaaner was signed.

The colonization of South West Africa which began after 1884 meant the cultural revolution in the system of values, representations and beliefs of its population. But the foundation of transformation in the sphere of culture was laid by missionaries through an education system. Distribution of Christianity led to change of outlook of a part of local community, emergence of new type of the community based not on blood, and on religious communications.

Adoption of Christianity in principle meant a gap with own culture for the African. Any forms of traditional customs were forbidden it: to celebrate the pagan holidays, events important for community and family -

the child's birth, a wedding, commemoration of the dead, was not allowed to participate in the ceremonies connected with a seasonal cycle of agricultural works as these ceremonies were based on traditional religious beliefs of community. The polygamy accepted in society appeared a terrible sin. Missionaries did not perceive any culture, except own, and used the position of spiritual leaders to impose to flock negative attitude to local communal life and culture. The ban was imposed on all types of traditional art, for example, dances, music, and decorative elements of type of tattoos, special hairstyles, etc. The new convert had to accept a Christian name and renounced the African name which made sense, certain, significant for tribespeople. At last, strict observance of Christian norms meant refusal of recognition of the power of local leaders and elders as their power was not from God, and was based on belief in their communication with pagan gods and ancestors.

Finally similar requirements led to separation and isolation of the African Christians from community and to their increasing dependence on missions. They lost the right for support of community during a disease or an old age. As the German researcher V. Rush, "irrespective of motives of activity of certain missionaries considers, in general their work promoted destruction of traditional cultures and a way of life in the African communities" [4, page 99]. It is possible to agree with it, but only partially. As some researchers note, full replacement of traditional values with new did not happen [13, river 505-506]. Assimilation of religious innovations had generally superficial character. It is possible to agree with M.D. Nikitin who considers that

"the Christianity occupied kind of the top part in the system of representations and became a peculiar ideological superstructure under which continued to exist a cult of ancestors, sorcery, magic, a totemizm, belief in various spirits" [3, page 181]. He notes that during the colonial period the belief in sorcery even amplified as the social mobility of society increased, the number of contacts and the conflicts between people increased, the sphere of a competition for imperious posts, education and jobs extended [3, page 182]. Christian priests had to be reconciled with incomplete observance of church codes if it was not in an obvious conflict with the main articles of belief. Thus there was a Christianity africanization. At the beginning of the 20th century in South West Africa arise Christians - the sko-African churches and sects which will get wide circulation in Namibia after World War II.

In general impact of missionaries on the African societies of South West Africa was deep and contradictory. Undoubtedly, they paved the way for colonial conquest of the African territories by Germany and to creation on them white settlement community by Christianization of a part of the population, its education according to the western values. With establishment of the German protectorate the Christian missions had new opportunities for the activity. At the same time missionaries did not go in a waterway of public policy at all, and pursued own aims, evangelization of Africans was basic of which. Missionaries always condemned excesses of colonial operation and took the part of local community in its conflicts with the German authorities. The contribution of Christian missions to change cultural paradig-is considerable

we Africans. Scales of distribution of the western culture including household, there were much more number of black Christians; new converts acquainted with it the tribespeople. Use of its material and spiritual attributes became prestigious business. It is necessary to carry them to negative points of activity of missionaries

rigoristic aspiration to deprivation of Africans of identity, however, as it was told, in general it it did not manage to be made. For the generally disinterested and fruitful work the German missionaries got respect at the people of South West Africa that is confirmed by expansion of their activity in modern Namibia.


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Daniel Joseph Randall
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