Christopher C. Taylor
One of the core metaphors in Rwandan traditional medicine concerns the flow of bodily fluids. This metaphor is a recursive one, extending into other domains of Rwandan symbolic thought, including notions of the person, ritual, and myth. Stated briefly, this metaphor opposes states of orderly flows to disorderly ones, including blocked flows and excessive flows. The healthy body is characterized by sufficient but not excessive or inadequate bodily flows. Unhealthy or afflicted bodies are often characterized by disorders in “flow” states. After the genocide, many Tutsi victims experienced post-traumatic stress in the form of a specifically Rwandan symptom that they termed ihahamuka. This symptom, as described by Rwandans, involves the blockage of breath in the lungs. Many Rwandans who had suffered extreme trauma during the genocide, but had managed to survive, complained of ihahamuka. Many were highly “Westernized” in terms of their education and religion but were experiencing a disorder that can only be fully understood via traditional Rwandan medicine, a medicine in which they expressed very little credence.
Jesuits have commanded scholarly attention in recent years, with Jesuit studies almost becoming an independent academic discipline. However, their involvement in Africa remains largely unstudied, even though they were in parts of the continent for close to two centuries. Moreover, after their restoration in 1814, the Jesuits played a significant role in the evangelization of Africa. This essay is an overview of Jesuit presence in Africa over the centuries. While it gives more prominence to the historical missions of the pre-suppression period in Congo, Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia, it also covers more recent presence in Madagascar, southern Africa and Egypt, and concludes with a brief analysis of the state of the Society of Jesus in Africa today. The essay underscores the challenge of locating Jesuit records related to Africa and the importance of understanding early missionary efforts on the African continent for the benefit of similar efforts in our time.