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The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz…

The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian…

by John Thornton

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The subject matter is fascinating, but the execution is lacking. The Kongolese Saint Anthony relates the story of an intriguing, but little known, incident in Kongolese history: the heretical Catholic movement founded by Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita, a young Kongolese noblewoman who is sort of an African Joan of Arc. She claimed to be possessed by Saint Anthony of Padua and led an uprising against both the secular rulers of Kongo—unpopular because of their constant warmongering—and its religious hierarchy—mostly white Capuchins from Italy. Despite widespread support, Kimpa Vita was captured by orthodox forces and burnt at the stake at the age of 22.

However, though the topic itself was intriguing, Thornton's stylistic and organisational decisions made this a book that I struggled to finish, though it's only about 200 pages long. He disdains oral and anthropological evidence in favour of working from written commentary from European sources. It's a thoroughly Eurocentric approach, compounded by the fact that when those sources "quote" a Kongolese speaker, Thornton changes those indirect speech remarks to direct quotations, often with remarks on tone such as "he said sarcastically." It makes for a dramatic narrative, but it's jarring, makes pretty much everything Thornton writes suspect, and requires us to view everything through a European lense. Interesting introduction to what is a new topic to me, but very flawed. ( )
  siriaeve | Nov 16, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521596491, Paperback)

Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita was a young Kongolese woman who in 1704 claimed to be possessed by St. Anthony, argued that Jesus was a Kongolese, criticized Italian Capuchin missionaries for not supporting black saints, and attempted to stop the devastating cycle of civil wars between contenders for the Kongolese throne. She was burned at the stake in 1706. Background information is supplied on Kongo, the development of Catholicism there, and the role of local warfare in the Atlantic slave trade.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:34 -0400)

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