Kimpa Vita (Dona Beatriz)
Lebone Lumbu (formerly Elaine M. Lumbu), 2005
Kimpa Vita c.1684 to 1706,
Democratic Republic of Congo
In recent history Africa has been home to a number of Spiritual icons, who have inevitably changed the face of Christianity by creating Indigenous African Churches.
We are soul!
As our concern for satisfying our bodily needs grows day by day, it is almost unbelievable that we are primarily created soul. We are more than our bodies. Personally I derive proof of this as a result of learning about a truly remarkable African woman not so long ago by the name of Kimpa Vita (Dona Beatriz). Before I give a brief account of her life and history I would like to share one of her prophecies: She announced that she would return as a man in future and build a huge Church independent of Rome.
The 17th century gave birth to an icon called Kimpa Vita Dona Beatriz. She concerned herself with the restoration, spiritually and politically, of the Kongo Kingdom. Born in 1684 Kimpa Vita worked as a religious actor[kp1] and was mostly isolated from the rest of her peers. At the time when the Kongo was dominated by political unrest and civil war. Therefore Kimpa Vita’s religious ideology came as an answer to the prayers of many Kongolese people. In her message she combined traditional Kongolese culture with Christianity. Her first prediction (1703) was that God would punish the Kongo. Later she fell ill and claimed that the spirit of saint Anthony possessed her. Saint Anthony was a Catholic priest and miracle worker. She announced that the spirit of saint Anthony would allow her direct access to the other world and that she would die every Friday to be resurrected again on Mondays. During her time away she would receive instructions from God, which she relayed to the Kongo. Kimpa Vita denounced traditional ceremonies and ordered the burning of fetishes by the Kongo people. She said that sacraments like marriage, confession and baptism are meaningless to God because God knows one’s intentions.
She believed that the Christ who founded Christianity 17 centuries ago and his disciples were indeed Kongolese (Black Africans). She placed the birth of Jesus Christ within the Kongo and Sao Salvador as the biblical Bethlehem, claiming that God wanted it restored as capital. Her message became so popular it could be called a Spiritual renaissance. This threatened the influence of the Catholic Church amongst the African people. The Movement was called Antonian. Even though it integrated Kongolese culture with Christianity, the Catholic priests drove the supporters of Kimpa Vita away. Some were imprisoned and beaten daily for their convictions.
In 1706 Kimpa Vita gave birth to a son after two miscarriages. She continued to emphasize the closeness of God to the African people, which was a unifying factor amongst Antonians. The establishment of the Antonian movement and its consequent success led to the arrest of Kimpa Vita, her son and her associates. They were charged with heresy. The miracle working by Kimpa Vita was described as “kindoki” or the use of supernatural powers. Kimpa Vita and her infant son were burned at the stake as a “witch” under the watchful eye of a capuchin priest who helped in convicting her.
This brutal execution did not have the effect, which the Catholic
community hoped for. Instead Antonianism spread from Sao Salvador to
other provinces in the Kongo. Pedro Constantininho became the successor
of the movement. The success of this movement is primarily attributed
to the fact that Kimpa Vita was believed to reveal the original
ethnicity of Jesus Christ and his apostles. She portrayed the Kongo as
a place of Biblical importance.
With the birth of Simon Kimbangu two centuries later one can almost say that Kimpa Vita is back. As a devoted Kimbanguist I learned that Kimbanguisme is based on the same principals, which Kimpa Vita expressed more than two hundred years ago. Simon Kimbangu also banned the old superstitious practices and dismantled the cults, which offered themselves as vehicles of spiritual contact. He encouraged people to pray to God through Jesus Christ, interpreted as a common ancestor and mediator. Both Kimpa Vita and Kimbangu preached a special relationship between God and the African people.
I believe that just as Kimpa Vita predicted, she came back in 1887, 12 September in the body of Simon Kimbangu. “Kimbangu” is the name of the Spiritual being, which Kimpa Vita and many others called upon when traditional medicines failed to cure whatever illnesses they suffered from. Simon Kimbangu existed before he was born.
- Norbert C Brockman, Dictionary of African Biography. Algonac, MI, and New York: Reference Publications, vol. 1, 1977; vol. 2, 1979
- John K Thornton, The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998
- Simon Bockie, University of California at Berkeley, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3, 1998.