Navigating ethnicity, nationalism and Pan-Africanism – Kimbanguists, identity and colonial borders
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The Kimbanguists, whose church is based on the healing and proclamation ministry of Simon Kimbangu in 1921 in the Belgian Congo, challenge colonially defined borders and identities in multiple ways. Anticolonialism is in the DNA of Kimbanguism, yet in a manner that contests the colonially inherited dichotomy between religion and politics. Kimbanguists draw from holistic Kongo traditions, where the spiritual and material/political are inherently interwoven. Kimbangu’s home village, Nkamba, is the centre of the world for them, and Kongo culture and the ancient kingdom form the backdrop of the Kimbanguist view of the new eschatological order to come. The reunification of the kingdom from the two Congo states and Angola will mark the inauguration of the new era. This will not, however, mean a splintering of the Democratic Republic of Congo but rather a removal of the colonial borders. That hints towards a Pan-African vision of a united Africa and even a universally united Black race that will play a central role in the eschatological salvation historical drama. The Kimbanguist vision also contains global dimensions, and their view of borders and identities is like Nkamba-centred ripples in water. This vision wipes away colonial borders and relativises ethnic, national and racial identities whilst strongly subscribing to a salvation historical narrative that places Africa and Africans in the centre.