Colonialism altered non-Western belief systems and cultural practices such as forms of worship, healing, mediation, education, and other cultural institutions that define people’s identity and history. This was achieved through an allyship between missionaries and the colonial administrators, condemning chivanhu—African ways of life and cosmologies. These institutions were peripheralized, forced underground, and assumed new forms towards the turn of the 20th century throughout British colonial Africa. This cultural disarmament exercise disrupted African societies, bringing them under Anglo-Saxon direct rule. Using the 1899 Witchcraft Suppression Act as an example, this seminar looks at how colonial misinterpretation of African beliefs and practices made it difficult, if not impossible to regulate the witchcraft phenomenon in colonial Zimbabwe. The central question is how and why witchcraft became central to debates about effective governance and colonial expansion in Africa. It demonstrates that the British colonial regime was not a unitary and colossal, but an ambivalent entity characterised by contradictions that further exposed the limits of colonial power.
Samuel Nyasha Chikowero
PhD Candidate at the Department of History, Archaeology & Heritage Studies
Makerere University, Uganda
NORHED PhD Visiting Scholar at Universidad de los Andes.
Political Science and Global Studies Department.
Universidad de los Andes.