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Convictions of Faith, by R.S. Basa.

June 9, 2020

Convictions of FaithConvictions of Faith, by R.S. Basa.  The Marked, 2020.

3 stars

Historical fiction about a real African woman, a prophet who led a popular religious movement which threatened local political leaders and the church in the Congo around 1700.

Kimpa Vita was an actual historical figure who lived from 1684-1706 in the Congo (what is now Angola).  She was a religious leader claiming to be a reincarnation of St.  Anthony.  She had numerous followers, and became a threat to both the Congolese political leaders and the Roman Catholic Church established by the Portuguese.  Claiming that the biblical Bethlehem, and Mary and Jesus were really Congolese, she was burned at the stake in 1706.  Her popularity long outlived  her, and her name later surfaced in African and slave revolts. Some have called her an African Joan of Arc.

R.S. Basa is a lawyer and scholar who defines himself as a “contrarian.”  He considers Kimpa Vita as another contrarian and his Conviction of Faith is an Afrocentric account of her life.  He claims that her movement was the precursor of attempts to combine African spirituality with European Catholicism.  He used Portuguese sources in his version of her story.

Certainly Basa establishes the importance of Kimpa Vita as a forceful religious leader who had an impact on African history.  How accurate his account of her life is remains less clear.  I know too little African history to judge.  I found the book not easy to read.  The long glossary which Basa includes is helpful, but hard to use in an ebook.  Typos clutter the text, and when and why characters move around is sometimes confusing.  None the less, I am glad to see Kimpa Vita brought to more readers and Basa’s new book gives us another much needed source on Africa during colonization.

Historical sources about Kimpa Vita include

Thornton, John K. 1998. The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Alexander Ives Bortolot . “Women Leaders in African History: Dona Beatriz, Kongo Prophet.” Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University.  The Metropolitan Museum, 2003.

Kimpa Vita (Dona Beatrice) c. 1682 to 1706. Dictionary of African Christian Biography.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2020 11:48 am

    Wow. interesting. Never heard of her till now. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • June 13, 2020 10:06 am

      I hadn’t either which is why I think the book is worth reading, despite its flaws.

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