v. Dr. Charles B. Mantey
Publishers: Shidaanikei Publishers Incorporated
Year of Publication: 2015
Number of Pages: 161
One can’t blame Non-Africans and even contemporary Africans for not knowing much about African Spirituality, for, there is not enough literature that deals with the topic adequately in the setting of Christianity. So how could the story of the Missionaries to Africa be viewed in the context of African Spirituality? The biggest question ever asked in this area is: Did Africans Know God Before the Arrival of the Missionaries? One doesn’t need to go to Africa in search of an answer as Rev. Dr. Charles B. Mantey writes with a brisk fervour in his book , ‘African Spirituality’ to create great awareness into lives in Africa affected by missionaries. Deliciously jaw-dropping with staggeringly African traditions versa vise the Christian religion, boredom is not an option in this ‘telling story’ that discusses the validity of African Spirituality as it is confronted by Christianity.
The author states in the beginning of the book that long before the arrival of the missionaries, “African mythology on creation, death, thunder, the sky, proverbs, symbols and ceremonies was evidence of a Supreme Being. “God is deeply entrenched in the African psyche that He is literally seen in their daily activities” The best proverb that underscores this belief in the Twi language is: Obi nkyere abofra Nyame (nobody teaches a child to know God)! This epitomises the central pillar in African Spirituality. African spirituality is as complex as African customs and cultures. It must be noted that proliferation of many religions in the world is the result of peoples’ quest for help from a supreme power beyond themselves but based on their cultures. These could be diverse though they all seek after God. The diversity in cultures pitches African Spirituality against Christianity. So the question remains, Did Africans Know God before the Arrival of the Missionaries?
Rev. Dr. Mantey does a better job of answering this question in a story form as a native African who has had training in Christianity from the Western world. Like the main character, Nyamekye, in the story he tells, who is a strong traditionalist but becomes a devoted Pastor with the arrival of the missionaries in the village of Asiwakan, Rev. Mantey uses his rich experiences in African culture as well as in Christianity to do justice to the issue of African spirituality. This improves significantly as the book progresses.
The book touches on how sacrifices, marriages, birth, naming of a child as well as death are celebrated in African traditions. It also brings to the fore some of the impact of Western culture on the African lifestyle as a result of the arrival of the missionaries. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the book, for example, discuss some of the benefits from the presence of the missionaries at Asiwakan. These include ambitious building projects, European cuisines, street lights and above all the empowerment of women as well as the development of soccer as a competitive sport!
Interestingly, the author introduces the arrival of new set of “missionaries” from the Western world with a different “mission”-looking for gold! Their economic activities impact the African lifestyle in the areas of employment and habits. Increase in stealing, drinking and smoking as well as immorality seriously challenge African cultural values. Slave trade sets in and brothers, sisters and wives are sold for money! Are Africans selling their gods for an unknown God of the Missionaries? NO! Conflict of religious values based on different cultures come into play. How the author best handles these seemingly controversial spiritual issues are hidden in the pages of the book. I, however, employ the writer to tackle the issue of witchcraft which also has some influence on African spirituality versa vise Christianity.
The author of this 160-page book is very knowledgeable in African Spirituality since he had the opportunity to study African Traditional Religion as part of his theological studies at the Christian Service University College in Kumasi, Ghana. He also travelled the length and the breadth of Ghana to preach the gospel and therefore practically interacted with the custodians of traditional religion such as the chiefs and elders which deepened his understanding of African spirituality. Moreover, his thirty-three years experience as the founder and the Senior Pastor of the Disciples Revival Church in Toronto-Canada which membership comprises people from cultures all over the world makes Rev. Dr Mantey a credible authority on the topic of African Spirituality. He tells the story in the most dramatic and effective way like the trained teacher he was before becoming a Pastor. His book, African Spirituality, is a MUST read for all who seek knowledge and understanding of African religion in the context of Christianity.
Review by Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Contributing Editor-Ghanaian News, Toronto-Canada
This book aptly captures the contentious issues surrounding the missionaries’s presence in Africa and the impact of their interaction with Africans.