R. Basi’s The Black Hand of God leads the reader through the painful and enlightening journey of the little known yet powerful African heroine Kimpa Vita. As African influence on Europe and Christianity is often discounted, so is his prophet’s influence on Western culture.
Basi, is kind enough to set the stage of the political climate of the day and supplies a brief history to assist the reader in following his story. The glossary of African terms is very helpful. Of course, I did not know of the glossary until I finished the book.
This tale, told through memories and rambling thoughts of an anguished parent, introduces fallibility, frailty and sheer stubbornness -- human aspects which are usually removed from the lives of our fallen religious leaders. Pushing and fighting against the power and teachings of the Catholic Church, as it began to destroy Kongolese culture, Kimpa Vita relies on her gifts to lead her followers towards God, even as they are pulled from the traditions of the Catholic Church. The authour does not muddle up Kimpa’s story with flowery language instead allowing the details to lead the reader toward powerful and thought provoking memories. Basi’s descriptions transport the reader inside the story, leaving you with questions, wonderment and the desire to read and further study, one cannot ask more of a book.
Kimpa Vita is a controversial figure and the authour is definitely not trying to make friends with this book. The story is sure to cause multiple raised eyebrows and ire amongst many traditionalists. Curiosity is sure to follow. The Christian Churches of today may not welcome the concept of an African combining Christianity and native beliefs, much less a female, anymore than they were during Kimpa Vita’s time. This is a superiour book for the apologist reader and will surely lead to lively discussion amongst the modern day Christian and Wiccan religions.
I recommend this book for teachers seeking a positive and powerful female figure—of little means—for a teen audience of experienced readers. African-Americans who wish to find proof of their ancestral culture influencing modern lives will find ample fodder. Book clubs that enjoy lively discussions and value differing viewpoints will have to allot extra discussion time for this story. Religious groups that are interested in the past’s influence on modern belief systems will find this book to be just the beginning of their exploration. Readers and anthropologists who enjoy studying African culture and how it shaped the modern world will discover a new arena to explore. This story is neither pretentious nor elementary; readers of all backgrounds of study will leave with the desire to explore more in their chosen area of study.
My only negative for this book is that it simply ended too soon. I closed the book wanting more and believing that the writer held back the greatest of their thoughts and her history. However, it began my personal quest to study more about this woman, her story, her power and her sacrifice.
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