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ALEXIS KAGAME AND AEQUATORIA: CONTRIBUTION TO THE BIOGRAPHY OF KAGAME (1912-1981) / By Honoré Vinck
See also correspondance Kagame - Hulstaert
Kagame, Hulstaert, Tempels
Alexis Kagame was a Rwandan Catholic priest from the diocese of Kabgayi. He was known for his political opinions and for a comprehensive corpus of publications in the domains of literature and cultural philosophy. He was the editor-in-chief of Kinyamateka (1), a local periodical in Kinyruanda. Kagame was also in correspondence with Tempels and Hulstaert. At a certain moment, he tried to become a Jesuit priest (letter from 13-1-1948). Kagame began his scientific career with his stay in Rome where he receives his doctorate in philosophy in 1955. After this moment, the correspondence with Hulstaert became less intensive. But Hulstaert continued occasionally to ask for an article or a book review for Aequatoria. Kagame promised to send in some of these, but eventually only delivered two texts (published in Aequatoria 16(1953)89-92 and 23(1960)146-147).
On three occasions I published a brief note signalling the existence and an abbreviated content of an exchange of letters between Kagame and Hulstaert (2). In fact we have 32 letters from Hulstaert and 22 from Kagame, written between 1944 and 1976. In this file are a few other pieces, notes and letters, documenting some arguments which were originally attached to the letters. There is also a brief correspondence between Hulstaert and Kagame's bishop, Mgr Déprimoz; a long exposition by Kagame on "civilization" (letter from 16-5-1947); and finally a theologian's criticism of an article by Kagame in Aequatoria 1945. The main contents of two important letters from Mgr Dellepiane (3), Apostolic Delegate, and of a letter from Mgr Hemptinne (4), bishop of Elisabethville, addressed to the bishop of Coquilhatville, Mgr Van Goethem (5), have already been published elsewhere (cf. Le Centre Aequatoria de Bamanya. Cinquante ans de recherches scientifiques, in Zaire-Africa 27(1987)212, especially p.87-91). They contain very negative evaluations of Kagame and Hulstaert. The original of the letters and other documents mentioned, are available at the Archives of the Aequatoria Center of Bamanya, and classified under" Correspondence Hulstaert" (Microfiches HP 4 and 5).
Gustaaf Hulstaert was put in contact with Alexis Kagame by Father Joseph Moeyens (6) when passing a holiday in Rwanda in 1944. Father Hulstaert opened the correspondence by a letter of May 10, 1944, inviting Kagame to collaborate in Aequatoria. Most of the letters are on the publication and the content of Kagame's article "Rwanda and its King", in Aequatoria 8(1945)41-48).
The king's rights
The main goal of Kagame's article was to make the colonizers understand the irreplaceable role of the King for the good running of Rwandan society. The opportunity that triggered his reaction was the Government's decision to have the cow markets organised by the administration, which was considered an attack on the King's traditional rights. Kagame incited Hulstaert to publish his text as quickly as possible in a single issue: "The meeting of the notables of the country (... ) will take place probably at mid-June. In this way the article will arrive in time to make the responsible persons reflect on what they are doing. The King attaches a great importance to this issue." (Kagame in Hulstaert on 14-4-1945).
The article had important consequences. Kagame wrote (30-9-49): "I did not forget that my article in Aequatoria triggered the happy present events in Rwanda" He certainly made here an allusion to the following:
On the personal level, the consequences are less brilliant for Kagame. He was forbidden to collaborate with Aequatoria, to regret of Hulstaert (9). In 1948 he wrote: "I am stopped from publishing in French" (Kagame to Hulstaert, 28-4-1948).
Black and white civilization
In second line of importance comes the discussion on civilization and on the differences between African and Western culture. We attest here one of the earliest written expressions of a certain black intellectual nationalism in the Belgian Colonies, based on both cultural values and historic traditions.
The publication of the article of Kagame by Aequatoria constituted for the Apostolic Delegate, Mgr Dellepiane, a proof of the misguided attitude of the journal. The journal was suspended temporarily (1945); which teaches us a lot on the methods of ecclesiastical censorship used by the Apostolic Delegation. They were strongly related to the personality of Mgr Dellepiane (inspired by the ebullient Mgr de Hemptinne). Mgr Van Goethem, the bishop of Hulstaert, testifies on his behalf, when writing: "His Excellence is so violent in his indignation" (Van Goethem to Dellepiane, 31-8-1945 Arch.Aeq. MF. CH 4.5)
Later, Hulstaert came two times back to the philosophical conceptions of Kagame. In a lengthy text: "Reflections sur la Philosophie Africaine", he dedicates 36 pages to the philosophical writings of Kagame. It has been partially published in a local periodical "Réflections" (magazine of the Major Seminary of Bamanya, 1984, p.1-14). Afterwards, in 1981 he attacked Kagame in an article in Annales Aequatoria (2(1981)1-19) on his methods in linguistics.
Some bibliographical references
-"Strategies Compared: The Cultural Translations of Alexis Kagame and Amadou Hampâté Bâ." In Hal Wylie and Bernth Lindfors, editors, Multiculturalism and Hybridity in African Literatures: Selected Papers of the 1998 ALA Conference. 2000 Trenton: African World Press. Pp. 379-391
1. Kinyamateke, bimonthly, founded by the Catholic Mission in 1937, published in indigenous language. The Journal was under the direction of Kagame from 1941 to 1547 and from October 1950 to September 1952.
2. See Annales Aequatoria 5(1984)178; 6(1985)177-187 and 7(1986)332-333.
3. Giovani Dellepiane (1889-1961). Apostolic Delegate in Congo and in Rwanda-Urundi, with residence in Léopoldville (1930 to 1949). He was strongly opposite to the "indigénisme" but favourable to the assimilation of the "primitive culture" to the Latin civilization. Biographical note in Fr. Bontinck, Aux origins de La Philosophie Bantoue", Kinshasa 1985, p.39, note 47 and Mr. Van den Abeele, BBOM, VII.C, 118-119 (with mistakes).
4. Jean-Felix of Hemptinne (1876-1958) arrived in the Congo in l910. Apostolic Prefect of Elisabethville from 1910 to 1932, then Apostolic Vicar of the same seat from 1932 to 1958. Biography in BBOM,VII.A., 291-299.
5. Edward Van Goethem (1873-1949), became the first Prefect (1924) and Apostolic Vicar (1935) of the Mission of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Coquilhatville. Biography by G. Hulstaert in BBOM VII C, 181-192.
6. Father Joseph Moeyens (1899-1955), artist-painter, had gone on holiday to Rwanda in 1944. See E. Van Linden, L'oeuvre artistique de Joseph Moeyens, in Annales Aequatoria 1(1990)683-697.
7. Eugene Jungers (1888-1958), General Vice-governor and Governor of the Territories of Rwanda-Urundi, from 1932 to 1946. Biography in BBOM VI, 562-565.
8. The "Groupe Scolaire" of Astrida in Rwanda, in the hands of the Brothers of the Charity (Ghent), was considered by the Father Hulstaert as the center of the opposition to the "indigénistes" ideas of Aequatoria. The school was lead by Brother Secondien (Lambrechts). See J.P. Harroy, Rwanda, De la féodalité à la démocratie, 1955, Hayez-ARSOM, Brussels-Paris, l984, p.109. On his school, Brother Secondien, published: Le Groupe Scolaire d'Astrida , Lovania, 1944-45, n° 5, p, 93-108.
9. The collaboration with Kagame went not very smoothly. On 12-5-47 Hulstaert wrote to Mgr Déprimoz asking for the resumption of his collaboration. On 13-8-47, while the Bisschop was on vacation, Father Endriatis, Vicaire Délégué, answered: "It was, for the meantime, difficult to send you articles from Alexis. You know too well that some people are out to find fault with them. Know that his last contribution to "Zaire": Le code ésotérique de la dynastie du Rwanda", which is a page of history without commentary, again didn't find thanks to the eyes of some." Finally, in a letter of 28-7-49, Hulstaert tried again to obtain the collaboration of Kagame. The answer of Mgr Déprimoz, by a letter from 30-9-1949, was negative. Later, Hulstaert made some comments on the article of Kagame in Aequatoria and on the events provoked on this occasion, in his correspondence with Tempels. (cf. Fr. Bontinck, Aux origines de la philosophie bantoue, Kinshasa, 1985, p. 76, 90, 103, 107, 109, 111, 114, 133).
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