“Sister Deborah”: the black Messiah of Scholastique Mukasonga

The first name his parents gave him became his surname. The first name she kept on her identity papers meant, in the Rwanda of the 1950s and 1960s, that she was baptized and could study in religious schools. Installed today in Normandy, where the green pastures frequented by disillusioned cows remind her of her native country, Scholastique Mukasonga, at the mere statement of her double first name, sums up the history of her people well: theology and the Tutsi ethnic group; the missal and the charms; colonization and traditions; God and the gods; but also the Church of yesteryear and the 1994 genocide.

Give thanks to Scholastique Mukasonga

Two years after “Kibogo ascended to Heaven”, where she refereed, on a sacred mountain, an allegorical duel between Kibogo, son of a king, and Yézu, son of God, the novelist puts face to face two Western Christian forces who are disputing Rwanda of the 1930s. On the one hand, the “padri”the Catholic White Fathers, originally from Belgium, carried away by the “Holy Spirit Tornado”. On the other, black Protestant evangelizers who landed from ” the other world “, who, by singing and dancing, promise Rwandans happiness, fertility, rain and the coming of the Messiah. From the top of her termite mound, an iron cane in her hand, bare breasts, the American prophetess and thaumaturge Sister Deborah rather announces a Savior, who will be black and will bring women a thousand years of happiness.

The sequel after the ad

“She will cause a seed to fall from her cloud, imbuto, which will lavish the harvest without the women needing to bend over the hoe (…) and the mothers will give birth to the children in transports of joy. »

Besides, Sister Deborah is only for women and children. The soldiers, the “askaris” will end up killing her. But she will be resurrected, under the name of Mama Nganga, in a Nairobi slum, before being burned by rioters accusing her of witchcraft.

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women’s kingdom

To Ikirezi, a sickly Rwandan girl whom Sister Deborah once cured and who became across the Atlantic Miss Jewels, a renowned anthropologist from Howard University, nicknamed the black Harvard, Scholastique Mukasonga entrusts the task of recounting the gesture of this feminist and anti-racist before the hour, who wanted to establish in Rwanda the kingdom of women. Black women, revolted against white power, patriarchy, and the chiefdoms of another time.

In epigraph, we will find the slogan of the Black Lives Matter movement: “I put God, she’s Black. » Galvanized herself like a pythoness, more African than ever, the Calvados novelist of “Notre-Dame du Nil” signs a poetic and fabulous tale, which delves into the past to better relate to the future and leaves Rwanda to conquer the world. modern. Let’s call her Sister Mukasonga from now on.

READ ALSO > Scholastique Mukasonga and the fable of the black amazon

Sister Deborah, by Scholastique Mukasonga, Gallimard, 160 p., 16 euros.

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“Sister Deborah”: the black Messiah of Scholastique Mukasonga

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