Kimpa Vita – Congo 1684 to 1706

A truly remarkable African woman not so long ago (was) Kimpa Vita / Dona Beatriz. Before I give a brief account of her life and history I would like to share one of her prophecies: She announced that she would return as a man in future and build a huge Church independent of Rome.

Kimpa Vita / Dona Beatriz, 1684 – 1706, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo / Northern Angola. In recent history Africa has been home to a number of Spiritual icons, who have inevitably changed the face of Christianity by creating Indigenous African Churches, (by Elaine M. Lumbu, see on this page).

Kimpa Vita – Congo 1684 to 1706. This is a drawig (1), showig how she seemed to look like in reality …

… and here how she is seen by today’s peoples.

(1) I found this drawing on this Google images search, the page is said belonging to perso.wanadoo.fr/ eglise.animiste/polyt2.htm, a page of the catholic church, but this link is actually not working. And, sorry, the site the Internet Archive is censured here in the U.A.E. So, if you live in a country having access, just click on this link (http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.eglise.animiste.fr/).

While celebrating Black History Month, many recall to the African Diaspora and to any interested person that this year, 2006, will be celebrated in July the 300th anniversary of the martyr of Dona Beatrice Kimpa Vita in Africa. (See the long article on Black News.com). See also PRESS CONTACT, Victor M. Nzabi, adm@vim-nzabi.net, Madeleine Dieya 704-421-5450, B. Justin M. 704-777-7668).

The 17th century gave birth to an icon called Kimpa Vita / Dona Beatriz. She concerned herself with the restoration, spiritually and politically, of the Kongo Kingdom. Born in 1684 Kimpa Vita worked as a religious actor[kp1] and was mostly isolated from the rest of her peers. At the time when the Kongo was dominated by political unrest and civil war. Therefore Kimpa Vita’s religious ideology came as an answer to the prayers of many Kongolese people. In her message she combined traditional Kongolese culture with Christianity. Her first prediction (1703) was that God would punish the Kongo. Later she fell ill and claimed that the spirit of saint Anthony possessed her. Saint Anthony was a Catholic priest and miracle worker. She announced that the spirit of saint Anthony would allow her direct access to the other world and that she would die every Friday to be resurrected again on Mondays. During her time away she would receive instructions from God, which she relayed to the Kongo. Kimpa Vita denounced traditional ceremonies and ordered the burning of fetishes by the Kongo people. She said that sacraments like marriage, confession and baptism are meaningless to God because God knows one’s intentions.

She believed that the Christ who founded Christianity 17 centuries ago and his disciples were indeed Kongolese (Black Africans). She placed the birth of Jesus Christ within the Kongo and Sao Salvador as the biblical Bethlehem, claiming that God wanted it restored as capital. Her message became so popular it could be called a Spiritual renaissance. This threatened the influence of the Catholic Church amongst the African people. The Movement was called Antonian. Even though it integrated Kongolese culture with Christianity, the Catholic priests drove the supporters of Kimpa Vita away. Some were imprisoned and beaten daily for their convictions.

In 1706 Kimpa Vita gave birth to a son after two miscarriages. She continued to emphasize the closeness of God to the African people, which was a unifying factor amongst Antonians. The establishment of the Antonian movement and its consequent success led to the arrest of Kimpa Vita, her son and her associates. They were charged with heresy. The miracle working by Kimpa Vita was described as “kindoki” or the use of supernatural powers. Kimpa Vita and her infant son were burned at the stake as a “witch” under the watchful eye of a capuchin priest who helped in convicting her.

This brutal execution did not have the effect, which the Catholic community hoped for. Instead Antonianism spread from Sao Salvador to other provinces in the Kongo. Pedro Constantininho became the successor of the movement. The success of this movement is primarily attributed to the fact that Kimpa Vita was believed to reveal the original ethnicity of Jesus Christ and his apostles. She portrayed the Kongo as a place of Biblical importance.

With the birth of Simon Kimbangu two centuries later one can almost say that Kimpa Vita is back. As a devoted Kimbanguist I learned that Kimbanguisme is based on the same principals, which Kimpa Vita expressed more than two hundred years ago. Simon Kimbangu also banned the old superstitious practices and dismantled the cults, which offered themselves as vehicles of spiritual contact. He encouraged people to pray to God through Jesus Christ, interpreted as a common ancestor and mediator. Both Kimpa Vita and Kimbangu preached a special relationship between God and the African people. (Read more on this page).

Sources: Norbert C Brockman, Dictionary of African Biography. Algonac, MI, and New York: Reference Publications, vol. 1, 1977; vol. 2, 1979
John K Thornton, The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998
Simon Bockie, University of California at Berkeley, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3, 1998.

Kimpa Vita The story of Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita, a Kongolese woman alleged to be possessed by the Saint Anthony is a narrative that discusses the Catholic movement she led in her home Kingdom of Kongo. In his book, Thornton follows the life of Kimpa Vita, giving the reader a sense of the culture and daily lives of the Kongolese. Kimpa Vita grew up in a very unstable time and heard about local events from her family and neighbors. Three ruling families competed for power in the Kongo. This resulted in numerous, seemingly unending civil wars throughout the Kingdom of Kongo. In fact, her own father was often away at war to defend the people of the Kibangu region. Turmoil had gripped the lands for many years, and the people of the Kongo began to think nothing short of a miracle would bring peace and stability back to the Kingdom. In 1704, when Kimpa Vita was twenty years old, she apparently died and then returned to life, possessed by the Catholic Saint Anthony. As Saint Anthony, she began to preach her version of Christianity, a mix of Catholicism with traditional Kongolese beliefs. Much to the dismay of the Catholic Church, Kimpa Vita quickly attracted a large following of common people, as well as some nobility. (Read more on RAD essays.com).

KIMPA VITA OR NSIMBA VITA or Dona Beatrice – She was the first Kongo young woman who fights against the colonialist at XVII-XVIII centuries. Therefore, there is serious discussion concerning her correct name between KIMPA VITA and NSIMBA VITA. Here is my contribution in the matter.

In fact, Bernardo Da Gallo, capuchin priest of XVII-XVIII centuries in Kongo kingdom, was the first who presents her in the world for the first time. We can read his history wrote by L. Jadin: “ Relations sur le Congo du Père bernardo Da Gallo” and “Les sects des Antoniens au…”

Well then, his usual orthography cialoango (nsi’a Lwângu=Lwângu country), n’cindi (Nsîndi= district), cialo (nsyÂlu= spoon), Aciquennque (Asi Nkênge= Nkênge’s people), etc. respectively Ci Italian means NSI Kôngo. Distinguishing Nsi and KI, Da Gallo use QUI: QUIquenque (Kinkenge), QUImolaza (Kimulaza= province), QUIoua (Kyôwa), QUIcanga (Kinkânga), etc.

In this case CHIMPA VITA may be the misrepresentation of NSIMBA VITA. Da Gallo, in his own report, explain this name: “she was twin… and traditional and exotic priest in some rites like that Quipachi, ancestors rites (…) specialy in twin’s rites where adepts called her Ngâng’a Marimba”. (p.43).

Well, in undertanding of our Italian priest, CHIMPA VITA means NSIMBA VITA. Without doubt! In other hand, he might wrote QUIMPA VITA. Or more, Da Gallo shall specify she was ngâng’a QUIpaci or ngâng’a BaQUImba (secret society of Bakhimba, cfr. L. Bitremieux: La société secrete des Bakhimba au Mayômbe). Therefore, he wrote ngâng’a Marimba, the twin’s rite in the old Kôngo.

Actually we can find familly’s branch with name of old Kôngo’s Kings and others authorities, like that Don Zuan Nzîng’a Nkûwu, Ndo Mfunsu mvêmb’a Nzînga, Do Manuel Ne Vûnda, NA Kôngo Don Diogo, NA Kôngo Do Bele-Damu, etc. (Cfr. J. Cuvelier: Nkutâm’a mvila za makanda mu nsi’a Kôngo). In this book, page 70 of 4th edition of 1974, we read. “NSIMBA A VITA. Nsaku’e lawu. Ntâma Nsâku’e lau kaka. Banuene vita, i bosi Nsimba Vita Nsâku’e lawu”. Free translation: We are NSIMBA VITA, Nsaku’e lawu in others words. At the past time, we were Nsâku’e lawu only. The Ancestors fight. Theafter we became NSIMABA VITA Nsâku’ e Lawu.

Is NSIMPA different to NSIMBA? Although can appears like that morphologically, we can observe that: at the past, precisely when Da Gallo is writing these events, in the other side, the Spanish priests are trying too to gather kikôngo vocabulary in differents regions. So they are victime of interference of both phonemes (MPA and MBA). For exemple: they wrote Matâmba=Matâmpa, Mbângala=Mpângala, Mbângu=Mpângu without any distinction.

I read lot of about debates concerning the correct name between KIMPA and NSIMBA VITA. In my humble knowledge, these two aspects that I showed up never was augmented by authores. The historic truth, always relative, may be NSIMABA. Why? 1)we tryied to interpret the understanding of Da Gallo who presents this revolutionary young woman for the first time in the world, and NSIMBA VITA shall be the correct translation; 2) among the scraps of History diverted from Dona Beatrice and Antonians sects, actually we can quote NSIMBA VITA as family’s branch.

Conclusion: I am not minimizing the thesis of religious anthropology: KIMPA VITA, the mystery of the war. But, all of that I underline up, constitute a simple historic critic. It means, I am demanding historians, anthropologists,… learn and study more about it. Maybe we are wrong. Maybe right. But, we like strong proof, not only probabilities. Mpangi’eno, by Patricio C. BATSIKAMA (See on this page).

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Kimpa Vita, mit dem Taufnamen Ndona Beatrice, deshalb auch bekannt als Dona Beatriz, (* 1684; hingerichtet am 2. Juli 1706 in Evululu im östlichen Königreich Kongo), war eine kongolesische Prophetin und gründete eine eigene christliche Bewegung, die Antonier. Sie wird nicht selten als afrikanische Jeanne d’Arc bezeichnet. (More on german wikipedia).

again in german: The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706.

links:

History and Bio in french / histoire et CV en français);

Afrikara;

HighBeam;

DirectTextbook;

amazon.com;

éditions Harmattan;

africatime;

Ecrivain Africain Kayemb in french;

FindArticles;

dacb;

ocdCongo story in french.

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