Missionary Anthropologist

Missionary Anthropologist

Elak-Oku, Cameroon

Missionary Anthropologists.

In the past Christian missionaries have at times been accused of perpetrating cultural vandalism in the name of religion and of riding rough shod over cultural sensibilities.


Fon's Palace, Cameroon

But in recent times there are signs of a renewed appreciation of the often painstaking and extensive cultural research – linguistic, social and anthropological – undertaken over many years by missionaries ‘ín the field’. For in contrast to much current anthropological research – relatively short term field trips – missionaries often spend their whole life in a particular cultural area thus gaining intimate knowledge of customs and traditions over a long period of time, sometimes extending to half a century or more.


Hermann Gufler mhm

Fr Hermann Gufler mhm
is an eminent example of a missionary with a keen anthropological interest. Over a life time – he is due to retire during the course of this year due to ill health – he has undertaken a number of anthropological studies in the North West area of Anglophone Cameroon. The resulting papers and monographs have been published i.a. in the Oxford based periodical Anthropos.

The Government of Cameroon has seen fit to award him the highest national civic decoration for his multi-faceted involvement over a period of fifty years.

Fons Eppink mhm

Extract from Article: Reenactment of a Myth. The Fon of Oku visits lake Mawès.
By Hermann Gufler

Full article: See download below.

Ritual Invocation by Fon of Oku

We started with a plea for forgiveness … begging that you should pour out your blessings which will make our crops to grow fast and bear three, four, five cobs each. Begging for people – begging for a boy and for a girl so that when they climb the bed looking for a child, they will bear four-four children, five-five children. Begging that the government (mekale) should come into Oku via schools, hospitals, and in anyway that can bring development. Begging and reiterating that they already asked for forgiveness because modernity (mekale) has come; saying that as they (é) came here today in a vehicle (kev?? makale) it was because people are not in good health these days and there are other things that will have to be done on return. For this reason, something which could cause the anger of the gods, I want to ask for forgiveness. Begging that you will accept this njemte, (that) your brothers (ghon no vi?) will accept and you will all eat and drink that water that accompanies the food, and your hearts will cool (z??le – to be. fresh; to rest) and you will hold me (and) when we will go back home, we will see the signs (?bch?yten) even today. Saying that they will not keep on singing (i.e., begging), because there is a lot to beg but you gods all know. You (pl.) will straighten the voice, spirit (keyioy), straighten the pleas they are pleading and plead for what we have not mentioned and add to those we have mentioned. Giving thanks that you will turn away those who hate Oku a lot, turn away those who think that they will bring ants (?mbuaa) to come and destroy our crops, turn them away, and we beg for forgiveness through the God of heaven and through the Lake. Thanks.

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