NEW PUBLICATION a media ban and religious competition in Kinshasa

Katrien Pype's chapter on "Nzete Ekauka versus the Catholic Church. Religious Competition, Media Ban and The Virgin Mary in Contemporary Kinshasa." has been published in Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa, eds. F. Becker, J. Cabrita and M. Rodet, Cambridge African Studies Series, Ohio University Press, 2018, pp. 202-228.

Since 1986, Brother Raphael Minga Kwete has been receiving divine messages from the Virgin Mary, Jesus, the saints, as well as Catholic leaders such as Padre Pio and Francis of Assisi in his compound commonly known as "Nzete Ekauka" ("the dessicated tree"). During the 1990s, this compound was the arena of fervent prayer gatherings where Catholic clergy, intellectuals, politicians, and even figures of the local music scene could be seen praying. Nowadays, the compound is nearly empty. The exodus started in the early 2000s, and today only a few dozen people (mainly women) continue to attend daily prayers, donate money, and spread the Virgin’s messages more widely. An informal media ban was issued by the Catholic Church in the early 2000s. The Nzete case-study will situate media presence, production, and aesthetics within a larger field of competition between orthodox Catholicism and more popular forms of engagement with Catholic spirits. In addition, the idea of the Virgin Mary as a spirit who addresses the Congolese through the prophet, draws our attention to the transformations urban religiosity has undergone in the late postcolonial era, and to the enduring role of Catholic clergy in urban Africa.


a pamphlet produced by the prophet Frère Raphael Minga-Kwete (picture taken in 2012)

a pamphlet produced by the prophet Frère Raphael Minga-Kwete (picture taken in 2012)

Participation in Electronic Modernity - Reflections Based on Ethnographic Research in Kinshasa

On May 9 2018, Katrien Pype delivered a key note at the Participatory Videofilm Festival #1 (organized by researchers at the University of Ghent, Belgium).

She introduced three different ways of alternative forms of "participation", beyond the act of filming and performing. First, her ethnographic research on the production of evangelizing television serials has drawn her attention to the fact that, if people act and watch filmed drama, this can have spiritual consequences. Participation in electronic modernity here also includes participation of one's soul, of spirits, and of invisible powers. Second, her research on political subjectivities in the Congolese blogosphere has pushed her to reconsider acts such as clicking and remediating digital content. Digital citationality, so she argues, connects to the emergence of the political subject in similar fashion as citing other people's voices construes the social person in local pedogagical understandings. Finally, participation by proxy, as informed by her research on elder people's usage of mobile phones (they often ask others to send text messages or make phone calls on their behalf) can often be the only way in which people can participate in electronic modernity while respecting local parameters of seniority and bigmanity.

MediAfrica at ECAS7

At the recent European Conference on Africa Studies in Basel, Switzerland, the MediAfrica represented with a panel as well as two presentations of recent research by participants in the project. Nanna Schneidermann convened a panel together with Casper Andersen from Aarhus University on “Urban technologies and technologies of urbanity in Africa.” The panel invited investigations of the relationship between technology and cities in Africa from an interdisciplinary standpoint:

”New and important questions are been asked about "local" innovation, "creolization" of imported technologies, maintenance, reuse and sustainability and not least about the role of technologies in the making of urban identities and forms of expertise and entrepreneurship. The burgeoning interest and growing literature has been interdisciplinary from the outset spanning across history, anthropology, geography, urban studies, STS and beyond. The panel aims to contribute to establishing a solid platform for this important interdisciplinary debate and invites papers that address the theoretical as well as empirical questions about urbanity and technology in Africa.”

These themes were explored in four papers presented on a Friday afternoon. Here Katrien Pype presented a recent chapter on ”Smartness from Below” calling for a closer attention to local vernaculars about technology and ”being smart” - and their relation to fantasies of development and ”smart cities”-  in Kinshasa.

These considerations neatly set the stage for the other papers in the panel; on repair and maintenance of electricity meters in Maputo, by Idalina Baptista, urban finances and mobile money in Eastern African cities, by Daivi Rodima-Taylor and William Grimes, and the politics and contestation of sanitation infrastructure in South African former townships by Steven Robins and Peter Redfield.

In a panel on women’s roles in negotiating health and healing in Africa, Nanna Schneidermann presented a paper on ”technologies of motherhood” based on recent fieldwork in Cape Town.

Overall the papers engendered discussions about the need for more “use-centric” studies and approaches to technology in Africa cities, and how these in turn might refine the concept of technology itself, as it is placed both in histories and in specific contexts of use.