I’m very happy to share the art form of my research on Nyabingi. In January, I began working on researching the history of the Nyabingi spirit, which originates in Rwanda and Uganda. This interest sprung from the increased conversation of African spirituality in all types of media. It generally came from the worlds increased interest in Orisha’s. For those who don’t know what that is, Orisha’s are gods which originate from the Yoruba people of Nigeria and can be seen in many Latin American countries that have a black presence. This interest also sprung from learning about radical African women like Yaa Asantewaa from Ghana. Since both of these inspirations came from West Africa, I found myself wondering well, what’s in East Africa? What are some traditional spiritualities that people practiced, or spirits people prayed to? Who are some prominent women from the past? There had to be something other than Christianity and Islam in places like Rwanda. In addition, I found it odd that people coined some of these Orisha’s (gods) and spirits like Mami Wata as gods or spirits that all Africans did or do believe in.
Throughout this research, I found many gods, a God, and spirits that other people in Africa believed in. And some cosmologies that intersected with one another. However, for this research I focused on one spirit from Rwanda/Uganda, called Nyabingi. Nyabingi is not a god, instead is characterized as a spirit that greatly influenced people prior and somewhat during colonization. Typically, this spirit chose specific women and sometimes men to take over and speak through. These people would act as mugirwa’s, also known as mediums. These days, it’s quite taboo to talk about because of the witchcraft ordinance of 1912 and more reasons that I may not fully understand. Today it is seen as a demonic spirit by many. However, the research I have carried out characterizes them as healers too. It does not deny the possibility for someone to use the spirit for misfortune though. In addition to this research I was able to learn more about how Nyabingi connects to the Rastafari and had an influence on the creation of Reggae music.
By the end of the research, I felt un-finished. I am an undergraduate Anthropology student at DePaul University and therefore the pieces I write are academic and are prone to being stuck in academia as if thats the only world where sharing research is important . The two papers I wrote for this research, one being about Nyabingi from Rwanda/Uganda and the other about its connection to Rastafari/Reggae, are nothing if they are not shared. I know that many people I’m connected to in the African diaspora, and Africa, the continent, may be interested in knowing what this even is. Others who are not apart of those communities are welcomed to learning as well. Therefore, I created visual art pieces that represent each of the female mediums I cover in my research. I also composed some music that represents each of the medium’s story. Because the art pieces are limited in words, there is only so much you can learn about Nyabingi and its connection to the Rastafari/Reggae. Therefore, I have shared the links to the two documents I wrote on this subject. As you explore Nyabingi, with this information I would like Rwandans and Ugandans who are new to this ask themselves, how does this fit in my identity? Does it fit in my identity? Does this shape/reshape my idea on where I’m coming from or what I’m connected to? These questions are open to individuals who are apart of the black diaspora and overall African continent as well.
Although, each document is filled with pages of information, they are merely introductions to the subject. There is more to learn. So I also welcome you to doing your own research or enlightening me with some knowledge you have on this topic and even correcting me or debating with me if you are someone who claims to know more. Each document is filled with sources that I used, which you are welcomed to find and read. This is my attempt to bridging the gap between research among people in academia and people outside academia. I wish you all love <3
Document links below. (Copy and Paste them)