“What Harm Can an Old Dry Bone Do?”

in Worries of the Heart

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2007 | ISBN: 9780226554198
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226554228 | DOI:
“What Harm Can an Old Dry Bone Do?”

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter introduces several conversations with John Kefa, John Mudaki's son. Kefa vividly remembered the stories he had heard from his father about the reaction of his widowed grandmother to the rumors of white cannibalism. The rumors of cannibalism were not the only reason Maragoli men and women feared the white missionaries. According to one implausible story, whites had the capacity to transform Africans into amajini, or “mermaids.” As the rumors of white cannibalism circulated to every homestead, to every nook and cranny in western Kenya, there appeared to be no choice left them. It would take another decade for the widows to begin to feel comfortable around the missionaries and to understand that most of the missionaries had good intentions.

Keywords: white cannibalism; John Kefa; John Mudaki; Maragoli; white missionaries; amajini; western Kenya

Chapter.  4324 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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