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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible A richly illustrated account of the story of the Bible written by leading scholars.

(Ordinary) African Resources for Reading

But when it comes to ordinary African interpreters of the Bible, they are not as constrained as their scholarly compatriots in the strategies they use to appropriate the Bible. Their strategies, in Wimbush's words, ‘reflect a hermeneutic characterized by a looseness, even playfulness, vis-à-vis the biblical texts themselves’. While much more work needs to be done on how ordinary Africans interpret the Bible, how they ‘read’, whether literate or illiterate, matters in Africa because African biblical scholarship is inclusive of scholars and nonscholars, the rich and the poor.

© John Muafangejo Trust.

This is not merely a nostalgic or romantic yearning for a lost naïveté; there are a number of sound reasons for this. First, because African biblical scholarship concentrates on the correspondence between African experience and the Bible, it locates itself within the social, political, and ecclesiastical context of Africa. Biblical scholarship belongs in the church and the community, not only in the academy. Secondly, recent trends in biblical scholarship—such as postmodernism, reader- response criticism, and liberation hermeneutics—push biblical scholarship in Africa in the direction of the ordinary ‘reader’. Thirdly, most African biblical scholars recognize that there are elements of ordinary readings in their own ‘scholarly’ reading processes. Fourthly, remaining connected to the various forms of contextual theology in Africa (including the theology of African women, Black Theology, African theology, etc.) requires that socially engaged African biblical scholars recognize the foundational (in Wimbush's sense) resources that ordinary ‘readers’ of the Bible bring with them to this task.

Africa also has a wealth of other African resources for reading the Bible. The extensive examples of African art that exegete and comment on the Bible are an amazing resource. From the narrative art interpretations of Azariah Mbatha to the three dimensional sculptures of Bonnie Ntshalintshali (see p. 337 ), to the eloquent linocuts of John Muafangejo (see pp. 333 , 340 ), and the work of many others, we have a wealth of local indigenous interpretative resources. Mbatha's woodcuts, for example, both in their form and in their images, are excellent examples of resisting conversation—of African transactions with the missionaries, colonialism, and the Bible. The woodcut, an African form, seizes and remakes the left to right and top to bottom conventions of colonial text to tell an African story of struggle from a European-brought book (the Bible).

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