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4— Missionaries, Migrants and the Manyika: The Invention of Ethnicity in Zimbabwe
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Language and Ethnicity: the Roman Catholic Church

The third main missionary influence in Makoni, Inyanga and Umtali was the Trappist/Mariannhill mission. This established itself at Triashill a good ten years after the introduction of American Methodism and Anglicanism and at a time when the main outlines of missionary Manyika had already been laid down. Nevertheless, it made its own peculiar contribution to the spread of Manyika identity, and this for three main reasons.

The first was that Triashill and its associated station of St Barbara's was not near Umtali, like St Augustine's and Old Umtali, but rather on the border between Makoni and Inyanga districts. As its out-stations spread out eastwards into Inyanga and westwards into Makoni, Triashill served to bring together its converts across what had been a military frontier between chiefs Makoni and Mutasa. Secondly, Triashill and St Barbara's were cut off from good communications and markets by a great range of hills. The people who lived on the mission farm and the areas around it were subsistence producers and labour exporters, very different from either the entrepreneurs of the American Methodist Gandanzara or the surplus-producing peasantry of Anglican Chiduku. The Mariannhill fathers and brothers had a good deal to do with the Manyika identity in Makoni becoming more than merely an elite self-identification. Thirdly, the Mariannhill missionaries were perhaps more self-consciously concerned to stress the past glories of the 'Manyika' and to foster a sense of local pride than were either the American Methodists or the Anglicans, perhaps


because they felt themselves constantly under the scrutiny of the disdainful and Zezuru-propagating Jesuits.

The main Triashill linguist was Fr. Mayr—a man 'so simple, so thoroughly earnest about all the work he undertook, so modest and unsparing of himself . . . a highly talented linguist, a thorough master of Zulu and Chimanyika languages'.[66] According to a later note prepared for the Jesuits by Fr. Withnell:

Father Mayr was given the work of preparing books in Shona for the new Mission. Fr. Mayr . . . said he wished to visit St Augustine's and asked me to accompany him. I was present with an attentive ear at the discussion which Fr. Mayr had; Canon Etheridge was the chief spokesman. Fr. Mayr seemed very keen on forming his native language on the prevailing St Augustine's language. What he seemed to insist upon was that the language of his projected books should not slavishly follow Chishawasha [i.e. the Zezuru literature of the main Jesuit centre], that in fact it should be different, as far as was seemly, from Chishawasha. With a smile between them the two learned linguists were at one on this point. . . . I know that prayers, as arranged by Fr. Mayr, differed much from those of Chishawasha. . . . So far as I have heard, these versions appeared without any approval. . . . The books were rushed through the press to supply a pressing need. . . . What struck me in their books was a determination of the Trappists to differ from Chishawasha language.[67]

Once Mayr's Manyika material was ready, the Triashill fathers wished to use it throughout Makoni district. They also ran a station at Monte Cassino in western Makoni, as far from Mutasa's Manyika as anywhere in the district. In August 1911 Fr. Fleischer wrote from Triashill to the Jesuit Apostolic Prefect asking permission to 'introduce the Chimanyika language spoken by the natives in and around Triashill at our mission of Monte Cassino. At present we make use of different catechisms on our two stations there, i. e., a Chiswina one at Monte Cassino and Chimanyika one at Triashill but in the future time we think that the catechism which Fr. Mayr compiled in Chimanyika for Triashill to take also for Monte Cassino . . . [to] make uniform our work for the black people.'[68]

This proposal to bring all Makoni district into the Manyika language zone triggered off a great language controversy between the Jesuits and the Mariannhill fathers and among the Jesuits themselves. Many Jesuits reacted with hostility to the Triashill proposals:

There is but one language in Mashonaland [wrote the Jesuit Fr. Bert in October 1911]. It may be called Chiswina around Salisbury, Chimanika near Inyanga, Shona, Shuna generally, Chikaranga . . . about Victoria, but the language is essentially the same. . . . There is and should be only one language for our Mashonaland stations. . . . I would boldly stand by the Chishawasha catechism. Not because it comes from Chishawasha—although the first or oldest . . . station might reasonably urge its claim on that score—not merely because it is the one actually 'in possession', but chiefly because it is the translation of the one followed in England.[69]

Fr. Withnell was also an advocate of the dominance of Zezuru. He hoped that 'the Salisbury [Chishawasha] dialect may be kept to; in my experience it is the most widely understood; just as in my experience, too, this dialect is richer and, as far as I can judge, more correct than others. . . . When I went to Chilimanzi. . . . I was agreeably surprised to find that Chishwasha had everything that Chilimanzi had, and more besides, Fr. Hornig had previously told me the same of Chimanyika.' 'I think that the central Rhodesian dialect ought to be


preserved', wrote Withnell again. 'I think it would be very unsafe to follow Chimanyika . . . with its wretchedly poor vocabulary.'[70]

As the controversy developed it extended beyond vocabulary into theology and desirability of missionary 'adaptation'. The Mariannhill fathers had followed St Augustine's and Old Umtali, for example, in translating 'God' as 'Mwari', while the Jesuits in Chishawasha used 'Jave'. The priests at Triashill chose Mwari after taking the advice of their teachers, drawn from both Inyanga and Makoni. The record of the teachers' discussions illustrates very well the compromises that were drawing them together within missionary Manyika:

Four of us said that 'in olden times the word Mwari was never used, it only came to us by the first missionaries of the Church of England. The old people always used the word 'Nyadenga' . . . the rest of the teachers said the word Mwari was always used in some districts and Nyadenga in others. . . . Then all of them agreed that the word Nyadenga mean only the owner of heaven, then Mwari should be the really name of God.[71]

Jesuit critics of Triashill objected precisely to such consultations and to the indigenous input into the formulation of Manyika. Old Fr. Richartz wrote in very different terms in describing the evolution of Chishawasha Zezuru:

We found that the heathen word Mwari had no definite meaning besides 'Rainmaker' and we were in this special important case like in general, very much impressed by the secrecy, want of clearness and straightforwardness with which all actions of the Natives were surrounded, especially everything that could be supposed to be in connection with 'religious' ideas as prayer, sacrifice, etc at occasions like child-birth, marriage, field work, war, etc, etc. Most of all was our teaching hampered by using existing words. . . . This very doubtful meaning of Mwari forced us to avoid this dangerous word and replace it with another word which surely meant the true God and fitted well in the native language (Chizezuru and Chikalanga), Yave.[72]

The persistent Withnell extended these criticisms to Triashill—and St Augustine's—usage in general, instancing the case of the translation of the word 'prophet':

You are perfectly right in coining the word 'anoprofeta' [he wrote to the Jesuit Fr. Johanny]. . . . You are simply applying the principle which has guided us all along in rendering ideas of the religious or supernatural order, for which Chizezuru could not possibly have an exact equivalent. The Trappists went on a different tack, and tried to pour the new wine of Christian ideas in the old, rotten skins of pagan words, creating confusion where there should have been unity.[73]

The critics drew a picture of sound Catholic usage everywhere else in Southern Rhodesia contrasting with an infernal alliance between Triashill and the 'sects' in the use of 'wretchedly poor' and 'rotten' Manyika.

There were no obstacles to the spread of Old Umtali Manyika out into Mrewa and Mtoko or to the spread of St Augustine's Manyika into almost the whole territory. Triashill's case was very different. Jesuit opposition prevented them from extending Manyika even to Monte Cassino and threw them very much on the defensive. Soon Jesuit opponents followed up this negative success. They persuaded the Jesuit Apostolic Prefect, Msgr. Brown, that the use of 'Mwari' was intolerable. In August 1923 Brown ordered that the word must be replaced everywhere by 'Jave' forthwith.[74] When the Triashill congregations continued to


use 'Mwari', Brown threatened to close down all Trappist/Mariannhill stations immediately.[75] As Brown later wrote:

Although our Jesuit Fathers had been in the territory for forty years and knew the native language well and had finally decided on the word to be used for God, the Mariannhill fathers without consultation with us began to use a word which although used by Protestantism had a very evil connotation. . . . I gave a formal order that Jave was to be used. In my next visit to Triashill, six months after my order had been given, I found no notice had been taken of my decision and that the objectionable word was still used. I then gave an order on the subject which had to be obeyed under pains of censure. This was obeyed.[76]

This prohibition was deeply resented by both the missionaries and the Triashill Christians and was seen as auguring a more general attack on Manyika. Together with disagreements over other questions of evangelical policy, the question led the Mariannhill fathers to approach Rome with a request that Manicaland be made a separate prefecture so that they could create their own Manicaland Christianity. When this failed, the Mariannhill superiors began negotiations with the Jesuits for an exchange of territory which would give the Manyika stations over to Jesuit control and give the Mariannhill fathers complete control over a mission area elsewhere. But the priests and brothers actually on the Manyika stations profoundly disliked abandoning them to the Jesuits, so that when Jesuit priests moved in to take over Triashill, St Barbara's, Monte Cassino and the rest of the Mariannhill stations in September 1929, they found the Mariannhill fathers still in definite possession and refusing to move.[77] In the end they did move out, leaving behind them an apprehensive and disgruntled 'Manyika' church to confront its new missionary masters.

No love was lost on either side. In March 1930 the Jesuit Jerome O'Hea wrote to Brown bewailing 'the dearth of teachers who are fit for the work. . . . The Manyikas want and seem to expect incessant propulsion a terga . They are an awfully slack crowd and they find good medicine in Fr. Schmitz who won't stand any nonsense and tells them often and clearly what he thinks.'[78]

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