Original Research - Special Collection: Social Memory Studies

Popular ‘superstition’ undermining piety amongst Christians: A case study of Mutemwa pilgrimages in Zimbabwe

Sekgothe Mokgoatšana, Mischeck Mudyiwa, Tabona Shoko
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 4 | a6117 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i4.6117 | © 2020 Sekgothe Mokgoatšana, Mischeck Mudyiwa, Tabona Shoko | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 May 2020 | Published: 25 November 2020

About the author(s)

Sekgothe Mokgoatšana, Department of Cultural and Political Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Sovenga,, South Africa
Mischeck Mudyiwa, Department of Cultural and Political Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, South Africa; and, Department of Religious Studies, Classics, and Philosophy, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
Tabona Shoko, Department of Cultural and Political Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, South Africa; and, Department of Religious Studies, Classics, and Philosophy, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe

Abstract

Prayers and places of worship are perhaps as old as humanity. A comprehensive survey of the dynamics and dialectics of African Christianity, Zimbabwe in particular, reveals that pilgrimages to holy places are a popular and common phenomenon. Of the many sacred places dotted around the Zimbabwean Christian landscape, Mutemwa shrine, located close to Mutoko Business Centre, is perhaps the most visited and popular, attracting thousands of Christians (particularly Catholics) from all the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe. Inseparably connected with the life and charity works amongst lepers by John Randal Bradburne (1921–1979), the shrine has been referred to as a case of popular, celebrated and fashionable religiosity by many pilgrims. This article explores the phenomenon of popular ‘superstition’ associated with Mutemwa pilgrimages with a view to assess and examine the orthodoxy, impact and implications of this popular devotion. The main argument developed in this article is that whilst innumerable pilgrims confess that pilgrimages to Mutemwa shrine provide imminent answers and solutions to their day-to-day problems, to some extent, popular ‘superstition’ associated with Mutemwa shrine has undermined the degree of piety amongst Zimbabwe’s Christian populace. As the article probes deeper, parallel practices within the African (particularly Shona) traditional religion and spirituality, Old and New Testaments as well as the tried and tested tradition of the Christian Church shall also be explored and critically examined.

Contribution: This article contributes to the ongoing debates on shrines as fetish and sacred spaces of ‘worship’ and reconnoitre, (re)appropriating pilgrimage as religious discourse, memory and the fulcrum of religious tourism. Pilgrimages to African shrines will also help us understand religious syncretism in Africa and the world over.


Keywords

popular superstition; piety; Mutemwa pilgrimages; John Bradburne; African Christianity

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Crossref Citations

1. De-centring pilgrimage studies: understanding neo-Pentecostal journeys and pilgrimage in Africa
Dominic Pasura
Journal of Contemporary Religion  vol: 38  issue: 1  first page: 79  year: 2023  
doi: 10.1080/13537903.2023.2170575