David G Maillu, Chairman & Presidential Candidate of Communal Democracy Party of Kenya (CDK), 2007
David Maillu does not show any dogmatic naivety, which one could suspect from “Inventors” of a new religion. The pictures at the walls, which were painted by Maillu, are as versatile as his literary work. Self confident and serious he looks back at his work, which in the meantime nearly consists of 70 titles, and corrects every false commentary. No, his earlier works / books from the beginning of the seventies which made him to the most widely read author in East Africa, were not at all only vulgar and sexually explicit even when they were read under the table and had not been taken into the official ‘canon’ syllabus of the schools; critic of the system had been difficult under Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta and had to be voiced extreme characters which were outside society: the alcoholic in “My Dear Bottle,” the oversexed secretary in “After 4.30”.
Maillu’s sense of humour is as surprising as his seriousness. He laughs and wriggles in his chair, while he talks about serious conflicts with the government at the end of the nineties, after he had combined a political-philosophical expose book about a homegrown African model of society with a candidature for presidency.
With sparkling eyes he makes a caricature of the media scene which had been bought by the government and only goes back to his old/own-self when his wife Hannelore brings tea and orange cake. After having eaten and taken the tea silently, he speaks about his newest/latest project: the “KA, Holy Book of Neter” 585 pages.
“No”, says Maillu again correcting himself, “The KA is not a new religion.” It is supposed to be an attempt, for the first time, to put into writing an already existing religion, which until now has been an oral tradition. A religion that sounds irritating.
In the end the cultural era which Maillu has envisaged for his project, is spanning from Cape Town to Cairo; how can one weave from such a heterogeneous rag carpet a prayer carpet/rug which is believable?
May be because of this reason, Maillu looked for co-workers/compatriots for his Bible-project. For three years he met with a group of well known African scientists. For three years, material was collected and put into shape. Other authors, scientists and private researchers were asked questions, among them John S. Mbiti, author of a standard work on African religion and at present professor at the Institute for Systematic Theology of the University of Bern, who was just as much taken as a consultant to the group as the English historian Basil Davidson.
Quite obvious is the influence of the Afro-centric base research of the historian Cheikh Anta Diop. Diop, especially in the USA and in Africa with his popular approach, does not only declare the old Egypt as the “Land of the Black People,” but also as the source of Western and African Religion and Philosophy. Like the old Egypt, Africa in its nucleus is (has also been) monotheistic and not the much sworn to playground of gods the way it is still seen today. Considering this background, the title “KA, Holy Book of Neter” which was taken from old Egyptian texts, loses some of its irritation: There as much as here “KA” stands for the universal principle which stands behind everything and “Neter” for God, the creator of earth and life.
What Maillu wants, reminds us of the start of the writing down of the New Testament some decades after the death of Jesus. Even at that time, a not fulfilled immediate expectation was one of the reasons to secure the spoken word. As in the Christian context, the downfall of the old world order, which had been believed to be near, did not happen and believers are still waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God, so for Africa the through Christian values was not fulfilled. Africa should not go the same way like the Christian congregation and should not replace immediate expectation with being constantly in expectation. Perhaps that is why Maillu reacts furiously with regard to criticism that KA could not be a Holy Text. Holy is all that which fights evil, says Maillu, for whom evil expresses itself especially in the destruction of African values.
The near 600 pages, divided into 10 Books, were primarily written by Maillu himself; corrections were done again collectively. At first sight, the result reminds the reader in its numerical citation of sentences of the Christian standard. Everything else is a little different. Drawings by Maillu open the chapters, the Book of Prayers is followed by the Book of Laws. There are passages/paragraphs on rights and duties within society, initiation rituals; Songs of African Slaves are at the end of the work, after parables, idioms, and the stories of some African Kingdoms have been told.
The exciting tales of the kingdoms raise memories of the kings in the Old Testament. At the same time, Maillu’s project confirms what Jomo Kenyatta already hinted at in his “Facing Mount Kenya” in 1938: the deep inter-weaving of religious and societal rituals, the close connection/combination of State and Religion in Africa, where the king was not only symbol for combining these levels, but also the democratically elected leader. Maillu succeeds in unfolding the complex story of a continent in colourful, dense and big pictures.
The own handwriting of the sixty-five years old Maillu cannot be overlooked. The epic reminds us of his historic big novel “Broken Drum” the emphasis on sexuality of his expose “Our Kind of Polygamy” “We should think about the fact that sexual fulfillment is good and God-sent. Sexual fulfillment should, of course, be paired with responsibility in order to avoid that the partner could be hurt.”
When Maillu now stands up and reads, singing with raised arms from the Book of Prayers the prayer for friends, the rhythm and the free form of the verse remind us of his earlier works: “My God, in my name and yours I beseech you to protect my friends, because they are good, because they make my life happier …”
Similarly, very much down to day to life are the teachings of the parables. “In Search of the most beautiful women” makes a virtue of ugliness and intelligence. “How much in actual fact does man need for life” is directed against the message of eternal economic growth. And the proverbs, be it “Equality is an unequal weight of nature” or “The more you love others, the less you will love yourself” bring us to the only conclusion: The expectation of salvation exists on earth and not in heaven; heaven and hell are unknown entities in Africa – preference is given to the fulfillment of a near expectation and the principle of a constant expectation is being rejected.
Home, own country has become foreign
As versatile the work is claiming to be, this also means that much has to have been missed out. Let us remember the rich transcripts of the Ifa-Myth, the teachings of Kenyan wise men collected by Henry Odera Oruka or the numerous other materials of field research, which followed the discussions of African Philosophy during the last thirty years. However, similarly as in the case of the New Testament, whose approbation did not take place until 382 after Christ, in this case, it may be left to later generations and other schools to integrate into the book KA Oruka’s transcripts or the difficult verse of the Ifa-Myth. Maillu is aware of the…. and promises expansions, also translations of the in English written work into African languages – provided, of course, that the book finds its readers.
Without money for advertising and only sent on its way with the warning words of the big churches, it will not be easy for the book KA to find readers – in a country in which the indigenous languages are replaced more and more by English and in which cinemas are closed and become the centre of Christian Revival churches.
Who in a country, where it has not worked to sing a joyful song for a long time, would start to sing this new song? In a country/home which has been lost without recall to come back, as it has become foreign itself/herself?
Most probably, the founders of Babel will be the first to read this book, the white people. Foreign gods have to sing this song, so that it is heard in Africa. This should hardly be a surprise to Maillu. He tells the story that his mother was happy that his three brothers married women of the same ethnic group and that she reacted in a skeptical way when he married a German. She then had to note with surprise that only the children of this mixed marriage learnt to speak her mother tongue Akamba besides English, German and Kiswahili.
Canon: David G. Maillu