Decolonising the Theological Mind

It is a very damaging experience for any people to be subject to colonial rule. If you go through several generations of being told that your own way of being is inferior and that in order to prosper you must comply with the norms of your colonial master, it takes a long time to recover. This is the process that Ngugi wa Thiong’o captured in his phrase “the decolonisation of the mind.”

Last year’s Theological Society of Malawi conference, held at the University of Livingstonia, grappled with this issue in terms of its implications for the theological curriculum in Malawi. Now the results of that conference have been gathered and presented in the form of a book – Decolonising the Theological Curriculum in an Online Age.

The pressure has been on to complete the book in time for this year’s conference, which opens tomorrow in Lilongwe. Quite a relief to receive this morning pictures of the books being packed at the printer’s in Johannesburg, ready for their flight to Malawi this evening. The President of Malawi, Dr Lazarus Chakwera (himself a theologian) has been invited to launch the book and formally inaugurate the Society on Thursday.

The person who, more than any other, symbolises Malawi’s resistance to colonial rule is the Baptist pastor John Chilembwe, who led a short-lived rising in 1915 that has proved to be hugely important in Malawian history. We are therefore delighted to have a new image of Chilembwe on the cover of the book. This is a photograph of the sculpture by Samson Kambalu which won the competition to occupy the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, for the next two years. It is due to be installed on 14 September and we are deeply grateful to Prof Kambalu for his generosity in giving us a photograph of his work for the book. Chilembwe appears with his European friend, the Zambezi Industrial Mission missionary John Chorley. But the two are cast on very different scales, Chilembwe much larger than Chorley – inviting a rethink of what was going on in the colonial period.

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