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Old Testament Essays

versión On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versión impresa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.22 no.1 Pretoria  2009


Ngoma Lungundu: An African Ark of the Covenant1



Magdel le Roux






The Lemba in Southern Africa are a specific group with unique traditions regarding Israelite origins. Their oral traditions also contain significant information on the leading role their priestly family played on their journey from the North into the Arabian Peninsula and eventually into Africa. They blazed their trail southwards into Africa as traders, with the ngoma lungundu ("the drum which thunders") playing a very similar role to that of the Ark of the Covenant. Striking parallels between the two traditions as well as a possible link between these two narratives are scrutinised. This study shows how the Lemba have constructed their own set of beliefs around Biblical myths in the context of marginalisation among other African communities. Their oral culture constitutes their world-view and self-understanding or identity. It incorporates the role of oral traditions, history and historiography. One could draw parallels between orality in early Israelite and African religions. The reciprocity between orality and inscripturation of traditions yields valuable information regarding the possible development of traditions in the Old Testament.



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Transcripts of interviews conducted during field study and video tapes:

D:G The Rev Father X Marimazhira (priest, Roman Catholic Church), Zvishavane, Zimbabwe, April 1996.

D:O Tinos Mutazu, (Imam, Muslim centre), Chinyika, Zimbabwe, July 1997.



Prof Magdel le Roux
Department of Old Testament
Ancient Near Eastern Studies, University of South Africa
PO Box 392 Unisa, 0003



1 The concept for this title is derived from the title of the book published by Von Sicard in 1952: Ngoma lungundu. Eine Afrikanische Bundeslage.

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