Catholic Priest Burning Idol House, Sogno, Kingdom of Kongo, 1740s

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Image Reference

Paola Collo and Silvia Benso (eds.), Sogno: Bamba, Pemba, Ovando e altre contrade dei regni di Congo, Angola e adjacenti (Milan: published privately by Franco Maria Ricci, 1986), p. 163.

Capuchin missionary putting torch to "fetish house"; some villagers are observing, others are fleeing. Some of the objects used by a magician, e.g., snakes, goat heads, claws, are shown in foreground. "Catholic priests," writes James Sweet, "had little tolerance for African rituals and practices. Across Central Africa, priests burned 'idol houses' and 'fetish objects' in grand public displays meant to demonstrate the impotence of African spirits and religious leaders" (Recreating Africa [University of North Carolina Press, 2003], p. 110). This source in Italian is a modern printing of a 1747 manuscript (located in the Biblioteca Civica of Turin) which describes Capuchin expeditions to the Kingdom of Kongo. The watercolor paintings record moments in the daily lives of missionaries Bernardino Ignazio and Gaspare da Bassano, who were resident in Sogno from 1743-1747. Sogno (Sonyo in English) was a province of the kingdom. The illustrations and accompanying manuscript were done by Ignazio. (Thanks to James Sweet for assistance in interpreting the source.)