๐”พ๐•ฆ๐•’๐•ฃ๐••๐•š๐•’๐•Ÿ ๐• ๐•— ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– ๐•ƒ๐•š๐•˜๐•™๐•ฅ, ๐”ป๐”ผโ„•๐•€๐•Š โ„๐•Œโ„๐•ƒ๐”ผ๐•: โ„๐•–๐•Ÿ๐•–๐•จ๐•š๐•Ÿ๐•˜ ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– โ„‚๐•™๐•ฆ๐•ฃ๐•”๐•™, ๐•†๐•ก๐•ก๐• ๐•ค๐•š๐•Ÿ๐•˜ ๐”ธ๐•ก๐•’๐•ฃ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•–๐•š๐•• ๐•“๐•ช โ„™๐•’๐••๐••๐•ช ๐•‚๐•–๐•’๐•ฃ๐•Ÿ๐•–๐•ช

Chike Nwodo nominated me for the #bookchallenge, which means that for seven consecutive days, I will need to name and say something (briefly) about a book I have read. It is a challenge I have once taken up in the French language and which I enjoyed. So, I have gladly accepted it once more. This time around, Iโ€™m reposting (when I judge it necessary) a blog or Facebook post in case I have already written something about the book in the past.
And I started this challenge with ๐•‹๐•™๐•– โ„๐•š๐•ค๐•– ๐• ๐•— ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– ๐”ธ๐•—๐•ฃ๐•š๐•”๐•’๐•Ÿ โ„•๐• ๐•ง๐•–๐•: โ„™๐• ๐•๐•š๐•ฅ๐•š๐•”๐•ค ๐• ๐•— ๐•ƒ๐•’๐•Ÿ๐•˜๐•ฆ๐•’๐•˜๐•–, ๐•€๐••๐•–๐•Ÿ๐•ฅ๐•š๐•ฅ๐•ช, ๐•’๐•Ÿ๐•• ๐•†๐•จ๐•Ÿ๐•–๐•ฃ๐•ค๐•™๐•š๐•ก by ๐•„๐•ฆ๐•œ๐• ๐•ž๐•’ ๐•Ž๐•’ โ„•๐•˜๐•ฆ๐•˜๐•š which changed my perspective on African literature. And yesterday, I presented ๐”ธ๐•Ÿ ๐•†๐•ฃ๐•”๐•™๐•–๐•ค๐•ฅ๐•ฃ๐•’ ๐• ๐•— ๐•„๐•š๐•Ÿ๐• ๐•ฃ๐•š๐•ฅ๐•š๐•–๐•ค ๐• ๐•— โ„‚๐•™๐•š๐•˜๐• ๐•ซ๐•š๐•– ๐•†๐•“๐•š๐• ๐•ž๐•’ which is a perfect example of what authentic African literature should be: inspired by an African experience or plotted around an Afro setting.
Today, Iโ€™m presenting to you a book of a different kind that will help us to continue to explore one of the themes developed by Mukoma. In chapter 5 of ๐•‹๐•™๐•– โ„๐•š๐•ค๐•– ๐• ๐•— ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– ๐”ธ๐•—๐•ฃ๐•š๐•”๐•’๐•Ÿ โ„•๐• ๐•ง๐•–๐•, Mukoma made a very important observation on the identity of an African Novel. He underlined that what makes a Novel African is neither the language nor the origin of the writer but mainly the setting of the novel. To buttress this point, I will be presenting to you the ๐”พ๐•ฆ๐•’๐•ฃ๐••๐•š๐•’๐•Ÿ ๐• ๐•— ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– ๐•ƒ๐•š๐•˜๐•™๐•ฅ, ๐”ป๐”ผโ„•๐•€๐•Š โ„๐•Œโ„๐•ƒ๐”ผ๐•: โ„๐•–๐•Ÿ๐•–๐•จ๐•š๐•Ÿ๐•˜ ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– โ„‚๐•™๐•ฆ๐•ฃ๐•”๐•™, ๐•†๐•ก๐•ก๐• ๐•ค๐•š๐•Ÿ๐•˜ ๐”ธ๐•ก๐•’๐•ฃ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•–๐•š๐•• ๐•“๐•ช โ„™๐•’๐••๐••๐•ช ๐•‚๐•–๐•’๐•ฃ๐•Ÿ๐•–๐•ช.
๐”พ๐•ฆ๐•’๐•ฃ๐••๐•š๐•’๐•Ÿ ๐• ๐•— ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– ๐•ƒ๐•š๐•˜๐•™๐•ฅ is a biography of the South African Archbishop, Denis Hurley, OMI. His Irish father migrated to South Africa at the height of the 1847-50 famine. The parent got married and gave birth to Denis and his other siblings.
The title of the book Guardian of the Light could be taken literally as the father was a lighthouse keeper. But itโ€™s more figurative as the Archbishop ended up becoming a beaming light directing, no longer ships like his fatherโ€™s lighthouse, but the South African Church to the reality of the indigenous black people of South Africa.
The family first lived in Cape Point and, later, in Robben Island, where very few white residents controlled the most notorious black South African prison (where Madiba was incarcerated for 27 years), a mental hospital, and a leper asylum. Archbishop Hurley had his first contact with the South African racial segregation system in this segregated context and forsaken city.
And, even though the parents gave them every opportunity to thrive in a society where the colour of oneโ€™s skin is a key factor to progress and development, Denis would grow up to (๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—น๐˜† ๐˜€๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด), bite the hand that fed him. He had his primary and secondary school staying with (white) Dominican Sisters far from his Godforsaken township. At the end of his secondary education, he joined the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI and was sent to Ireland to pursue his priesthood formation. Denis was later sent to Rome, where he was opportune to witness various faces of the universal Church. Living with other oblates from different parts of the world made him realize the absurdity of a racially segregated society.
On returning to South Africa, he found it difficult to reconcile himself with the way the whites treated the blacks in his native South African society and Church. Young as he was, he tried to identify with the oppressed black and Indian communities, trying to acquaint himself with their realities and finally becoming their very important ally.
Named bishop at the age of 31, he became the worldโ€™s youngest bishop. And during the Second Vatican Council II, he would prove to be a force to reckon with as he joined hands with many other prominent bishops who thought that the Church needed to listen more to the afflicted members of society.
And on his return, he pushed for a serious change in the catechetical pedagogy in the South African Church. He promoted the adaptation of the catechism to the local languages of South Africa and worked to improve the social teachings of the South African Church. His efforts as a white South African in the โ€™60s to make the South African Church closer to the realities of the people is still more progressive than what many black African bishops are doing today. His catechism reform in those years is over 50 years more current than what we observe in many African dioceses today.
There are so many other things that make the biography of Archbishop Hurley a must-read for anybody interested in institutional reform today than can be said in these few lines. According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, โ€œ๐ด๐‘Ÿ๐‘โ„Ž๐‘๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘ ๐ป๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘™๐‘’๐‘ฆ ๐‘ค๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘†๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘กโ„Ž ๐ด๐‘“๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ . ๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐ต๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘โ„Ž๐‘ฆ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘  ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘ฃ๐‘’ โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘š ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ โ€” โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ฆ, ๐‘“๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘™๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ ๐‘›๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ , ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘™๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘ ๐‘๐‘–๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ก ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘€๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘–๐‘š๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ฆ. ๐ผ๐‘ก ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘Ž ๐‘š๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘ข๐‘ .โ€
But before I conclude, I have to state that it is not a simple novel, and though beautifully written, it demands a little concentration to appreciate better such a monumental work.
Finally, looking at different moments where the Church kept silent (as many local churches still do today) while the people were being persecuted, one might think that Archbishop Hurleyโ€™s experiences have to be promoted to remind the Church of her role as the mother of the afflicted. Also, this biography should serve to remind all the shepherds that they should be the guardian of the light for the people (blacks, natives, immigrants, LGBTQ, etc.) whose condition continues to degenerate today.

Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

Writer & Blogger

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