Abdallah, Yohanna

Anglican Communion
Malawi , Tanzania , Mozambique

The Conversion of Abdallah’s Father

The Anglican missionaries of the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) established themselves in Zanzibar in 1863 after relocating from Magomero in Southern Malawi. Working largely with the freed slaves in Zanzibar ensured a steady supply of evangelists on the mainland of Zanzibar. However, despite the usefulness of the freed slaves in this regard, ultimately the UMCA endeavored to recruit from the settled tribes of East Africa.[1] In their missionary approach, perhaps as other missions elsewhere, the UMCA sought to enlist people of some influence in their communities as their agents. Barnaba Matuka Nakaam, Yohanna Abdallah’s father and a chief was one of these, an early convert of the mission.[2]

Yohanna Abdallah’s Background

Abdallah tells us that his mother was Salome and that he had one brother, Barnaba Mtaula.[3] Matuka, Abdallah’s father, belonged to the Yao, a dominant ethnic group in East and Central Africa, some of whom, to a degree, co-operated with the Arabs in the slave trade. William Percival Johnson, a missionary, converted Matuka at Masasi in the village of Chitangali in 1880.[4] Subsequently, Matuka was educated at Kiungani.[5] His conversion was strategic for the UMCA as they hoped that Matuka would soon be chosen as Nakaam, the supreme chief of the area.[6]

Early in 1880 Matuka sent his son, Abdallah, to the school that had opened in his town of Masasi. Subsequently in the years between 1881 and 1886 Abdallah trained at UMCA college at Kiungani. Besides speaking his mother tongue of Yao and English Abdallah, learned Greek and was knowledgeable in Arabic and Swahili.[7] The UMCA’s important test experience with the settled tribes was Chitangali. To this Yao village the UMCA prudently sent Cecil Majaliwa, a Yao evangelist and freed slave, who in 1890 became the first African to be ordained a priest in the UMCA in East and Central Africa.[8] During the years that he spent there, Majaliwa won the hearts of many for his sterling work as he worked independent of missionary supervision.[9] More importantly, for some time, Abdallah worked as a teacher at Chitangali under the supervision of Majaliwa and then was sent to work at Newala.[10] Meanwhile Likoma Island in Malawi was established as a base of the diocese of Zanzibar in 1885 and became the centre of the new diocese of Likoma, subsequently of Nyasaland (Malawi) in 1892.

Abdallah as a Missionary

Jerome Moriyama described Abdallah’s progress to missionary work thus:

Barnaba Matuka [Abdallah’s father] had been invested Nakaam [chief] in November 1887 and on the same day he was confirmed by Smythies, while his son, Yohanna, was taken a second time to Kiungani, and on Advent Sunday 1887 [he] ‘definitely’ offered for a missionary life.[11]

Abdallah volunteered to become a missionary in Malawi during the period when the UMCA was going through some significant changes. This was during the very end of Smythies’ episcopate, immediately before he died, who until then had continued to strengthen the principles of order and discipline laid down by his predecessors. It was also on the threshold of a new era, ushered in by Richardson, whose episcopate was characterized by laxity in policy and unstable administration.[12]

At this stage the most influential person in Abdallah’s life was Charles Smythies, Bishop of Zanzibar. In 1893 Smythies wrote,

I have written to the Bishop [of Likoma] to offer him, for two years, one of our best men, Yohannah Abdallah, whom I hope to ordain this year. I thought of it as I came up here from the coast; he [Abdallah] had said to me he should like to go away to new work, and suddenly it came into my mind that he ought to go to Unangu. It seemed as if it was an intimation of God’s will, as when I reached here one of the things I heard was that Kalanji, the chief of Unangu, had sought the friendship of Nakaam, the chief here, Yohanna’s father.[13]

Smythies’s choice of Abdallah was strategic. In Smythies’s view, it would seem that friendship between Kalanje, the chief of Unangu and Abdallah’s father would work to Abdallah’s advantage. It is likely that the acquaintance between Kalanje and Abdallah’s father motivated Abdallah to make the decision to offer himself to work in the Yao village of Unangu. It is possible that Abdallah considered going to the Yao region in Nyasa an opportunity to broaden and share his experience in life, for in his book Abdallah extols the Yao’s propensity for travel for the sake of curiosity and learning new things.[14] In any case Abdallah would be going to a place where his father had an important connection.

Unangu Mission

Situated about 100 kilometres from Likoma Island, the UMCA headquarters in Malawi, under British colonial influence, Unangu (St. Mary’s and St. John’s) was the first major station in the Yao region in modern Western Mozambique, east of Lake Malawi. Established in 1893 by John Hine, Unangu fell under the sphere of Portuguese influence. Hine’s bishop, Smythies, noted the strategic importance of this mission when he stated that, “contrary to the opinion of many, and speaking from a deeper experience, I believe that the Yaos are some of the most promising people with whom we have to deal - the most steadfast, and thoughtful, and earnest, when they become Christians.”[15] Similarly, writing in 1904 with regard to Yohanna being a Yao, Walter Suter, a missionary asserted, “The Yaos are a fine stuff. I might also recall the fact that the British Central Africa Rifles, who proved well their valour in Somaliland, are recruited very largely, almost entirely, I believe from this same Yao race.”[16]

Significantly, Anderson-Morsehead located the background of the mission in the context of the colonial English and Portuguese rivalry of 1888.[17] Writing as an eye-witness in Chiikala cha Wayao, Abdallah gave a background of the context in which the Unangu mission was subsequently established. He describes Makanjila’s successful military victories over the other major chiefs and ethnic groups in the region, his seizure of the missionary Johnson and the British Acting Counsel of Nyasaland, Buchanan, in 1888, which precipitated some military campaigns.[18] Makanjila’s seizure of the missionary, Johnson, and the British Acting Counsel of Nyasaland, Buchanan, in 1888, indicates the extent of African resistance to missionary/colonial rule. To Makanjila, the European presence threatened his authority and way of life. The strategic importance of this region to the UMCA was highlighted by William Percieval Johnson, a missionary based on Likoma Island. Writing to the Colonial British Resident, Harry Johnson, on 21 November 1895, he asserted:

Will our government ever take on the eastern side of Lake Malawi. If they did, could they strike the mischief? The gunboats could do nothing - what is needed is a generous policy towards the Lakeside villagers. They have been developing slowly, yet surely. Their villagers all welcome our teachers, fill our schools and cultivate large extents of country, so that we are able to escape the famine threatened before the locust.[19]

It is not clear whether this “mischief” was Makanjila or Kalanje. Johnson was most likely referring to Makanjila who had given Johnson and Buchanan a tough time recently. According to Bridglal Pachai, a notable historian of Malawi, Makanjila continued resisting British colonial rule well after it was a reality in 1895.[20] On the other hand, Kalanje, who had given the place to the UMCA for a mission settlement on the condition that “they did not spy on his slave trade” continuously gave the English a tough time.[21] George Atlay, a missionary, emphasized the importance of this mission when he stated that Unangu was a “door open to Yao land…” and then continued saying “…was not our hope that taking advantage of Kalanje’s willingness to receive us we should be able to represent to Yaos what a Mission of the Church is, I sow seed in hope of a more peaceful state of things hereafter, as the Unangu people learn more of the British government and influence.”[22] For Atlay the political aspect - spreading the British influence to the Yao was important as well. In the context of the scramble for Africa, seemingly, the English in their rivalry with the Portuguese and the Germans in East Africa, needed the support of the powerful Yao ethnic group.

It is possible that it was at this stage, following the UMCA tradition of celibacy, that Abdallah vowed not to marry while in the service of the mission.[23] That Abdallah took a solemn vow not to marry is not insignificant. He was the first African celibate priest in the diocese of Nyasaland (Malawi), to be followed later in 1912 by the last one, Leonard Kamungu. Under normal circumstances, it was unusual for an African to remain unmarried. In this respect, Abdallah identified himself more closely with the religious ethos of the white missionaries in the UMCA, whose celibate life markedly distinguished them from the Africans.

With regard to his decision to go to Unangu, later on Abdallah was to write: “I was very sorry to leave Kiungani and especially my work among the Mahomedans [Muslims], but there are many Mahomedans at Unangu.”[24] It seems Abdallah regretted leaving his own people or acquaintances as Abdallah had established very strong ties with the prominent African clergy like Cecil Majaliwa and others. In fact, Abdallah was like a protégé to Majaliwa. This was also a time when Abdallah was going through anxiety and uncertainty, perhaps regarding his ordination - as his bishop, Smythies, did not live to ordain him. Subsequently, Abdallah was ordained deacon by the visiting bishop of Uganda, Tucker, in 1892. Significantly in the following year, Abdallah stood in for Majaliwa at Chitangali for a time, when the latter was called to the Synod in Zanzibar.[25] So with this experience in 1894 Abdallah joined Hine at Unangu.

The Influence of European Lifestyle

The life of Yohanna Barnaba Abdallah appears to reflect some changes that the UMCA was going through very late in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, which in fact tended to conflict with its traditional policies. Abdallah joined John Hine at Unangu in 1894. In the Lake Region of Eastern Nyasa (west of modern Mozambique), the context into which Abdallah came to work was dangerous: besides the slave raiding of chief Kalanje and others, the Ngoni people of Mgwangwara (Songea) were hostile to the European conquest of the Lake Region. A year after his arrival, Abdallah witnessed the Ngoni murder of the missionary, George Atlay.[26] When Abdallah joined John Hine at Unangu in 1894, Hine was quick to note some changes in the life style of Abdallah, of which Hine had been warned about even before Abdallah’s arrival at Unangu. Thus on 10 June 1895, he wrote to Johnson complaining,

I feel a good deal disturbed these days by Yohana’s priggish ways. He has become an enfant terrible in no time, were he not severely snubbed. To see him stalking off up this Mt. at 5 p.m… afternoon clad in a white cassock and black tippet and with a large white umbrella to protect his complexion from rays of setting sun - with a retinue of 3 or 4 boys going before him whose office is to carry an umbrella and other articles of clothing … oh this is not a gratifying sight. Let him return to his simplicity of life wrote Bp S [Bishop Smythies].[27]

It is likely that Abdallah was merely emulating the lifestyle of some of the contemporary missionaries. For Hine, it seems the issue was that Abdallah appeared to be exaggerating his importance, implying that he was a bad example of an African priest in a missionary society which stressed simplicity as its standing rule. Not only had Abdallah changed his dress habits, he had also adopted European food and despised African food. In the same letter, Hine wrote:

What a wrote JB in his gushing way. He retains it by eating cheese and requires mustard and declining to eat potatoes, turns up his nose at nchima of Chimanga and ufa [traditional African stiff porridge/pap] and prefers to like all things distinctively English. 1 fear you will find Yohannah a distorted prig,’ Wrote Winspear the other day. I begin to fear I shall. He has been patted and spoilt, is like a silly girl in some things though not without many merits of course. I shall try my best to kick this priggishness out of him and develop the merits…He came this morning but only stayed a few minutes and he was going to drink pombe [African beer].[28]

In citing what other missionaries had to say about Abdallah’s life style, Hine suggests unhappiness with Abdallah was fairly widespread in the mission. Abdallah’s habits and style of life conflicted with the UMCA’s policy regarding the African clergy. From 1863 it had been a standing rule in the UMCA to discourage Africans from adopting any form of European habits, attitudes or lifestyle. Tozer had discouraged this when he stated that, “to Anglicise the people in all these respects would be a very doubtful gain…to make Africans look like Europeans at the expense of health and cleanliness, would surely be a great mistake.”[29] Smythies felt the same way when he said, “Our desire is to distinguish very clearly between Christianity and Europeanizing. It is not our business to make Africans bad caricatures of the Englishmen.”[30] That for Hine this was a serious matter is borne out by the fact that immediately when he became bishop of Likoma he addressed this issue at a clergy conference in 1899.[31]

The question of Europeanization in the UMCA emerged as a critical matter in the aftermath of the missionary deaths in the Southern Highlands of Malawi in 1862. More specifically, the European orientation of the UMCA had come under severe criticism from the mission’s supporters in England and thus had to be addressed urgently.[32] From now on Europeanization of any aspect of the Mission had to be discouraged at all costs. As Abdallah seemed to style himself as a European missionary, a number of missionaries now believed that he had turned into a bad example of an African clergyman. He had abandoned African simplicity not merely for a European-styled life but one that also displayed extravagance.

The consumption of alcohol was an issue in the UMCA. Except for health reasons, the UMCA forbade its clergy to consume alcohol.[33] The fact that Hine reported that Abdallah indulged in pombe [African beer] suggests a breach of discipline. That beer drinking was becoming an increasing concern for the mission may be noted from the resolution passed at the Native Conference held at Likoma in 1904. The conference exhorted the “P-I-C [priests-in-charge] to refrain from recommending for the minor order of Reader, teachers who did not willingly take the pledge for ten years, or some considerable period.”[34] The resolution was supported by Augustine Ambali and Lawrence Chisui. The fact that Abdallah’s name was not mentioned in this regard may suggest that the missionaries still did not trust him enough as far as the issue of beer drinking was concerned.

It seems that around 1912 the consumption of alcohol was still a problem in the mission. In that year Abdallah reported that “he tried to get [his] people to vow against moa [beer] drinking…a very grave temptation to us here especially in hot season.” He went on to state, “I have tried hard to do something to stop it as I tried two years ago by having a vow for say 3 or 5 months, and many have tried to do it this year amounting to two hundred and forty-eight people who made the vow before others.”[35]

It is possible that by reporting the action that he had taken, Abdallah was trying to show the missionaries that he himself was part of the solution in trying to curb the problem of the abuse of alcohol amongst the Christians under his charge. More importantly, he might have been making the point that beer drinking was now no longer a problem in his life. That the consumption of alcohol was a problem amongst the African/ evangelists/clergy and the missionaries in Zanzibar is borne out by the testimony of Anderson-Morsehead, one of the missionaries working in Zanzibar. He reported the abuse of alcohol in Zanzibar by the “natives” (clergy as well) and the missionaries. He went further to warn the missionaries that, “The time will, however, come when the natives will begin to ask why we forbid them what we do not always use in moderation ourselves.”[36]

Even Bishop Smythies of Zanzibar knew about Abdallah’s lifestyle before he sent him to Unangu. It is possible that Smythies could not have regarded this as an issue in his ministry or he could have thought that it could be remedied in time. Missionary records of this time describe Zanzibar as a “seat” of evil - with wrong influence on African people. Living at Unangu, Abdallah displayed a lifestyle and habits that he had acquired from his association with the missionaries or possibly his long stay in a boarding school in Zanzibar.[37]

The fact that Abdallah refused to eat an African dish, preferring a European meal, suggests that to a degree he had conformed to the European lifestyle. Yet the problem seemed fairly widespread among the African clergy. A growing tendency of African conformity to European ways could have prompted C.B. Eyre to write on 24th November 1906 that, “I think we might check the growing tendencies of our native clergy to adopt European habits in dress and food…“[38] Robert Heanley related a story similar to the one that John Hine reported about Abdallah’s life style. Highlighting what he considered as the “failure” of John Swedi and Cecil Majaliwa resulting from their contact with Western civilization in England,[39] Heanley pointed out that on their return from England, the two asked the missionary, who had invited them to a meal, to supply them with sugar for their cocoa.[40] Heanley concluded, “The question was a deeply suggestive one. They miss the “sugar” of Western life.”[41] There was something inconsistent or ambivalent about the UMCA policy.

Undoubtedly all this put Abdallah in a very bad light in the eyes of the missionaries. That the trend amongst the African clergy for “Europeanization” was becoming an issue of great concern for the mission in 1906 is evident from Eyre’s letter cited earlier on. In that letter, he continued to assert that,

We have to adopt habits of dress and abstain from many things because we are the ‘the Clergy of the Church; it doesn’t seem to be hardship to insist on native clergy to live as their fellows live in order to gain them for our Lord…. ‘It may be of interest to quote one of the Acts of the Synod of Zanzibar in 1903 [which] discourage all Europeanisms and luxuries which they Africans will be quite unable to supply them.[42]

It is possible that Hine could have regarded Abdallah’s lifestyle as an obstacle to the evangelization of the African people. However, Abdallah’s lifestyle and his attitude must be viewed from a broader perspective of the changes that were taking place in the UMCA in Zanzibar. In his article, “Building a Home-Grown Church”, Jerome Moriyama noted shifts with respect to policy and style by which the UMCA operated in Zanzibar at the beginning of the twentieth century.[43] In particular, he noted a shift in relations between English and African clergy from one of trust between equals to that of strict supervision, the English over the Africans.[44] Thus, at this stage, Hine himself took a very strict supervisory role over Abdallah. He believed that he had the responsibility to change Abdallah’s lifestyle. It is significant that Anderson-Morsehead, the official UMCA biographer, makes no mention of this episode.[45] It would seem that the issue of conformity to European culture went through two phases of change in the UMCA. At this stage, at the very beginning of Abdallah’s ministry, the UMCA insisted that European culture could not enhance African Christianity, rather it would retard it. However, it would seem that from the 1920s the UMCA believed that Africans could not be successfully converted unless, to a certain degree, they adopted European styles and conduct, and in some cases facilitated or even fostered the trends towards Europeanization.[46]

Yet Abdallah’s attitude to a European lifestyle and conduct ought to be viewed from another perspective. Like many of his colleagues in the UMCA, during his time at Unangu, Abdallah wrote many letters to England making various requests on behalf of his church. For instance, on 14 October 1894, Abdallah wrote to D. Travers asking for spiritual books and commentaries, one of which was entitled The Man of God.[47] Having received it, he wrote on 31 July 1895, stating, “Thanks for books. There are many friends in England who ask me what I want, I don’t think I want anything more than books, I am not yet satisfied with them, so still I do want them more, so tell them.”[48] There is no doubt that Abdallah valued books but equally important he understood the importance of giving the impression to his benefactors that he himself, like the Europeans, valued books tremendously. In this regard, Abdallah sought to distinguish himself as an African priest educated beyond average literacy.

However, the missionaries’ observations of and comments about Abdallah’s lifestyle must be viewed in the context of his first four years at Unangu, the early period of his ministry, when he was working as a deacon under the supervision of Hine. As the reader will notice below, from 1898 to the year when he died in 1924, Abdallah’s ministry developed to the extent that the diocese benefited from it.

A Leader of the African Clergy

Since 1894 Abdallah had been serving as a deacon In 1898 he was ordained priest on Likoma Island by Bishop John Hine, his former superior at Unangu. As the first African priest to be ordained in the diocese of Malawi, Abdallah belonged to the distinguished category of the clergy who had been ordained much earlier: Tiyo Soga of the Presbyterian Church in South Africa in 1870, then Anglicans: Peter Masiza in the diocese of Independent (British) Kaffraria (presently Mthatha, South Africa) in 1877 and Cecil Majaliwa in the diocese of Zanzibar in East Africa in 1890.[49]

By virtue of his seniority in age and ordination, Abdallah commanded authority amongst all the African clergy. The Yao clergy of the diocese, in particular, tended to regard him as their natural leader in the position of a “chief, while it is said that he tended to despise the rest of the African clergy, who were of the Nyanja tribe, as his “slaves.”[50] The missionaries, on the other hand, respected Abdallah for his knowledge of the African people, their culture and traditions. According to Eyre writing in 1906, “Abdallah was recognized as the one who knew the feelings of natives better than any other [priest in the diocese].”[51] Perhaps because the missionaries respected his understanding of the African people they regarded him as their natural leader. For instance, in July 1908, Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper recorded that following the instructions of Bishop Hine:

All Native Clergy and Lay Readers [had] met together at Msumba under the presidency of Yohanna on May 13th. They had gathered under the instructions of the Bishop - to discuss matters pertaining to native ministry and to advise the bishop …It was a very happy gathering and that members of the conference felt much helped and strengthened by it.[52]

In any important matters affecting the Africans, the missionaries depended on him for their knowledge of African life and people. More importantly, because of his excellent knowledge of the Yao language, culture and traditions, the missionaries depended on Abdallah for the Yao translations of the mission books, notably, the Prayer book, the Collects, the Epistles, the Gospels and the Occasional Offices.[53] In 1904, he sent a Yao boy to help in the printing of the Yao books at Likoma mission press.[54]

Under his leadership, the African clergy operated as a closed community as they judged each others’ cases.[55] This suggests that the African clergy tended to exist as a body of clergy apart from their white missionary counterparts.[56] Abdallah was often accused of being patronizing by the missionaries. It would seem as if there were times when Abdallah would not use his position as an African clergyman to promote unity amongst the various groups of the African clergy. Apparently in response to this criticism, in 1903 he stated,

I sometimes hear people say that, “Padre Yohannah does not express his willingness to emphasize the unity of the different sections of the Missions by not sending Yao teachers. But really this is not the case: I remember Padre Yohannah did send two teachers to Mpondas two years ago, and people will be glad to hear that this year he has sent one teacher to Malindi and one to Padre Eyre at Mtonya; so I expect people will see that Padre Yohannah has already expressed his willingness long ago on this matter.[57]

His position as a most senior member of the African clergy put Abdallah in a very critical role, which he could use for good or for ill. That now he showed his willingness to cooperate shows the extent to which he had changed his attitude.

A Trainer of the Yao Teachers/Clergy

Between 1894 and 1906, Abdallah made his mark as a trainer of Yao clergy. During his tenure as priest-in-charge, Unangu became an important centre for training Yao teachers/evangelists, who would then be sent to other Yao places in the diocese. The mission used Abdallah’s influence to recruit potential Yao teachers from Zanzibar. On 30 April 1896, he wrote to D. Travers:

Mr (WP) Johnson asked me to write home [Zanzibar] and ask Yao teachers to come and help the work; for Nyasa (Nyanja) teachers are not like to come among Yaos as they are always fighting each other.. .1 shall be very thankful if some friends in England will like to send me a concertina, snaps, and toys for our boys. I am preparing five men to be made catechumen - when Mr. Johnson comes, for he has promised to pay a visit; for I have been here two months without a Priest, so you see how I am, as one really left alone. I find very hard to write in English.[58]

There was a general mistrust between the Nyanja and Yao, with the Yao looking down upon the former as their “slaves.” The Yao had for decades captured the Nyanja as slaves. Christianity did not seem to have succeeded in breaking down these barriers. Nonetheless, Johnson’s request to Abdallah bore some fruit for the Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper of January 1904 recorded that, “A boy has been sent from Mwembe by the brother of the late [chief] Mataka to be taught at Unangu, and Padre Yohanna [Abdallah] has promised another boy shortly…“[59] Mwembe was the headquarters of the Mataka kingdom. That Mataka sent a boy to be taught at the mission, to a degree, suggests his willingness to come under the influence of the mission. However, in some cases, chiefs like Mataka and others could use the missionary influence to their own advantage. Having a mission educated “boy” was sometimes a way by which the chief sought to convey to his enemies the message that he had the missionaries as his powerful allies. In this respect, the African chief sought to identify with the power of the Europeans.[60] In the aftermath of Bishop Hine’s visit to Unangu that year, A.H. Crabb, a missionary, reported that, “[the bishop] came away feeling very impressed with what [he] had seen of the work, and the reverence of the Unangu Christians under the care of padre Yohanna.”[61] And in 1908 Abdallah reported about his work at Unangu in the church paper thus,

This year we have very wonderful developments here at Unangu; more teachers have been sent away to different places; Reader Daudi has been sent to Malindi, and two teachers Alfred and Yusuf to Mtonya, while two others, Readers Gilbert and Michael are sent to St. Andrew’s College, to prepare for the Diaconate and four other teachers are going to teach at Chisindo.[62]

The report suggests the extent to which the ministry of Abdallah had developed. As a trainer of the Yao ministers and clergy he was now in a position to send his own trainees to other places within the diocese. However, reports of successful missionary work such as this one also played an important role of encouraging the benefactors in England to continue supporting the work in the field. In the work that I cited above, Philippe Denis noted this aspect of the role of missionary literature.[63] He asserted that, “Their main aim was to describe the work done by the missionaries and to justify the provision of supplementary funding.”[64] However, in 1903, Abdallah was aware of the common accusation levelled against the missionaries of publishing “success” stories while ignoring their “failures”.[65]

Nonetheless, to counteract the perception of the Africans that Christianity was essentially a European religion rather than the religion of the Africans, Abdallah reported that in 1909 he revived a practice of sending preachers on preaching tours. He went on to state that,

Four of them were sent out two weeks ago around Njesa hills; around Unangu itself. I have done very well, (a) The teachers themselves will see that they are trusted and the work of evangelising is not restricted to the Priest alone, nay but to every Christian, man or woman, and especially to these teachers (b) natives themselves will understand well, that Christianity is not a religion of the European only, but for all.. .1 feel happy to have a Deacon under me, as I have been alone [for the past] 15 years, it will give me much time for going visiting I hope.[66]

Abdallah’s statement raised important aspects of missionary Christianity regarding the African ministry. Besides the fact that Africans regarded it as a European religion, apparently the teachers did not feel that the clergy trusted them enough to work on their own. Abdallah proposed and put into practice a system where the priests delegated their authority to the teachers to evangelize so that they could gain confidence. More importantly, so Abdallah asserted, this could remove the perception that Christianity was a European religion. Similarly significant, Abdallah recommended this plan to the other clergy.[67]

In the meantime, that year Abdallah reported that he was given a Deacon, Michael Hamisi, to train.[68] In 1910 Leonard Kangati replaced Hamisi at Unangu, who was sent to work at Chisindo.[69] Thus Abdallah was trusted enough to train deacons as priests. It needs to be noted that this progress was taking place in the context of instability and tribal conflicts. On 11 February, 1909, Abdallah had reported that during his visit to the Portuguese Commandant, Captain Campos, when the latter heard that Abdallah was going to Chisindo, he gave Abdallah a rifle saying, “Chisindo is Malinganile’s raiding field, and is always a dangerous place, and I give you this as my last present, perhaps you can use it by shooting or defence.”[70] However, in the following year, Unangu suffered raids from Mataka and Malinganile.[71] The raids on Unangu suggest Mataka and Malinganile’s resistance to the missionary power. On the other hand, the issue of the security of the missionaries was always critical during these years as they anticipated danger from the Ngoni or war lords such as Kalanje or Malinganile.

In spite of persistent opposition from Islam, Unangu was making good progress. On the Eve of Easter in 1915 forty-five people were made Catechumens while a hundred were baptized, the largest baptism ever held in that church.[72] However, during the war, Unangu fell into the hands of the Germans and Abdallah had to run away to Chisindo.[73] We don’t know whether Abdallah used the rifle. However, Abdallah’s gift of the rifle given by the Portuguese Commandant raised the issue of the use of firearms in the UMCA. This matter had always been controversial in the UMCA since the deaths of the early missionaries at Magomero in Southern Malawi in 1862. The deaths, though, resulting from poor health conditions, malaria and hunger, were also attributed to their involvement in the armed conflict against the Yao in support of the Nyanja, an issue which provoked much criticism and a considerable loss of support from their benefactors in England.[74]

An Ecclesiastical Diplomat at the Court of Kalanje

Of all the African clergy in the diocese of Nyasaland, it was Abdallah who found himself in the most difficult station of the UMCA located in the area under the jurisdiction of Chief Kalanje. His village was a slave trade post en route to Zanzibar. Abdallah found himself in the difficult position of having to balance, on one hand, the interests of the mission, and on the other, those of Chief Kalanje, whose goodwill he badly needed for the mission to continue operating there. In some respects, Abdallah effectively became a “court” priest. In the years 1894 and 1895 the Unangu mission was adversely affected by Kalanje’s activities. In 1894, the year he had arrived at Unangu, Abdallah wrote, “The caravan from Unangu has come, the Chief Kalanje has sent an ivory as a present to my father Barnaba Nakaam (in Zanzibar).”[75] Apparently the present was sent to strengthen the relationship with Abdallah through his father, Nakaam. Through the influence of his father, Abdallah would then be obliged to deal with Kalanje favourably. Nonetheless, in the following year Abdallah reported that

[He] had a lot of troubles with Kalanje, who … suspected [that] we were building a fort - as the [Portuguese] commissioner had done and said he will not let his people come to us… but I was very pleased and astonished too, to hear his last word, he said, “except on Sundays to hear your preaching.” I was very glad that he knows how to separate things of God from those of men. I find that I cannot do anything with grown up men and women, but I thank God that I can do something with young men and women and boys too… people came in great numbers on Sundays to hear our preaching, Kalanje is sending a big caravan to the coast by his son, he has sent us a sheep today.[76]

Obviously, Abdallah served as the “eyes” of the UMCA, reporting the “wrong” things that Kalanje and other chiefs were doing and Kalanje could have been aware of Abdallah’s role in this regard. On the other hand, a “gift” of a sheep given to Abdallah, could have been intended to appease the mission in light of Kalanje’s illicit involvement in the slave trade, perhaps trying to secure goodwill from the mission. Yet Abdallah’s information communicated to the mission officials was useful for its strategic planning.

In the interim, in 1896, Abdallah reported to Mr Viner that the church was thriving as Kalanje had stopped giving trouble and continued to report that “his people are not troublesome as they used to do before we evacuated. I get very great crowds of grown up men and women with large number of readers I have 12 boys in the house of catechumen, they help in school.”[77] In 1897, when Bishop Hine visited Unangu on his pastoral visit, there was a big reception. He wrote, “I had a great reception at Unangu, Reverend Y. Abdallah and all the boys, for the school had largely increased in numbers, meeting me a long way from the foot of the hill and escorting me with songs and clapping of hands into town. Hundreds of people came to see me, Kalanje and all the headmen, bringing their presents.”[78] The fact that Kalanje brought presents to Hine suggests the important role that Abdallah played in winning Kalanje over to the side of the mission.

In 1898, the Unangu mission went through some challenging times. Abdallah recounted some disasters that fell upon the mission: the death of three boys, the falling of the dormitory and the breaking of the dormitory bell. Then he went on to report: “I have asked Mr. Travers to mention to friends in England about a big church bell for Unangu is wanted very badly. The Bishop said that he will send for Mr. Williams up here to build me a new stone church so I need a bell very much.”[79] The same year he reported that the bishop had ordered that a new stone church should be build at Unangu.[80] More importantly, Abdallah reports that Kalanje’s attitude towards the mission had changed. He was now very regular in coming to church on Sundays. Katuli, the chief of the Litawi, sent him his boy to be taught, and a young ox too.[81]

Writing in Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper in July 1904, Abdallah reported on two developments: that the Unangu church [had] been restored under the supervision of Petro of Likoma, who had been sent by Bishop Hine, and that Chief Mataka had sent tusks of ivory as a present to him. Prudently, Abdallah asked for his bishop’s advice, He instructed him to send the tusks back and instead ask for some boys to be taught. That year, Abdallah reported that Mataka I had sent a boy to him.[82] In spite of his bishop’s advice to return the tusks, Abdallah saw the gift as a positive gesture. He remarked “I think and hope that some day the way to our great capital will be opened D.V.”[83] Abdallah longed to see the day when the influence of his mission would extend to Mwembe, the capital of Chief Mataka. It would be a victory for the mission. Nonetheless, the intention of the chief could have been sinister - tacitly to coerce Abdallah to approve of Mataka’s slave dealing. However, Bishop Hine could see that clearly and hence the advice to ask for boys to be taught. On 9 April 1907, Chief Kalanje died and Abdallah reported his death as follows:

I am sorry for his death. He was a heathen King, but defended the progress of the Gospel; amidst all problems the Unangu church suffered - he sent all his wives to help in rebuilding the church and when he recovered from illness he offered thanksgiving alms in church which I accepted; and this year when we had no rains for months, he came and asked me to pray for rain in church; and he always used to stop his people and not make noise whenever he heard the Angelus bell. I believe and trust and pray that his kindness to God’s church… will be remembered in our Lord’s presence.[84]

It would appear that what was important to Abdallah was not so much Kalanje’s conversion but rather his influence on his people to support the mission. In fact, Abdallah suggested that despite Kalanje’s indifference to the Gospel, some aspects of his life manifested the positive influence of the Gospel. Abdallah was implying that his efforts to convert Kalanje were not entirely in vain.

However, according to R.G. Stuart the battle between Abdallah and Kalanje (the successor) was fiercely fought over spiritual allegiance in relation to sorcery connected with the Mchape movement.[85] In the long struggle over this matter, so Stuart noted, finally Abdallah had come to accept that as he wielded spiritual power at Unangu so Kalanje had the autonomy to rule his people in secular matters.[86] This battle, so Stuart asserted, continued from 1914 to 1924.[87] Stuart reported that in 1920 a sorcerer from Mwembe arrived at Unangu with the support of Kalanje.[88] He proceeded to do sorcery.

Resulting from the sorcerer’s activities, so Stuart asserted, Abdallah put several Christians, including women, under censure, who subsequently put away the supposed medicines.[89] In this regard Abdallah was like other African clergy who had a negative attitude towards some African traditions and cultural beliefs. For example, in her study of the life and ministry of Peter Masiza in South Africa, M. Goedhals noted Masiza’s negative attitude towards African customs such as male circumcision.[90] In 1912, Malinganile, who with Mataka had always raided Unangu, submitted to the Portuguese Government.[91] Abdallah used the occasion to demonstrate the practical lesson of Christian forgiveness. As the Muslims and Non-Christians refused to give the chief and his people water, under Abdallah’s influence the Christians brought flour, goats, beans and other offerings to the defeated chief while Abdallah explained to him what it meant.[92] Abdallah’s act seemed to signify his assertion of moral authority over Malinganile at a time when the latter appeared most vulnerable.

His Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

In his book, Chiikala cha Wayao, Abdallah stressed that one of the strong characteristics of the Yao people of his time was their curiosity for knowledge acquired through travel to distant places, such as the East Coast of Africa.[93] It would have been in accordance with this spirit that in December 1906, Abdallah undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the holy places. Smythies wrote that a small legacy that Maples had left behind made it possible for Abdallah to fulfill this dream.[94] Maples’ generosity to Abdallah suggests that a close relationship prevailed between the two. Abdallah travelled from Zanzibar to Cairo, and hence to Jerusalem. He wrote a full account of his travels in Swahili, which was edited by John Hine. Hine noted that Abdallah derived his knowledge of Jerusalem “from the Bible and from references in the hymns, which he had been accustomed to sing in church. He constantly illustrated his itinerary with quotations from both these sources.”[95] Avery careful observer, Abdallah recounted his experiences in minute detail. For instance, he reported that “the Bishop of Mombasa rebuked me for having slept longer to miss seeing Mount Sinai.”[96]

He went on to relate, “I spent Ascension Day on the Mount of Olives, where I noticed five different Catholic branches, each celebrating the Holy Eucharist in the open air, each at an altar of their own, with different rituals. Ah I will not forget that grand sight all my life, smoke of incense going up from each altar, Armenians, Coptics, Romans, Greeks and Abyssinians. I thank the Lord for allowing me to witness that sight.”[97] Abdallah asserted that learning from others was an important character of the Yao.[98] It is possible that when he undertook his trip to visit the Holy Land, he believed that he was trying to live up to the traits of the Yao.

His “History of the Yao”

Towards the end of his life, Abdallah set for himself a literary project. Like Augustine Ambali, Petro Kilekwa, and later on Lawrence Chisui, Abdallah wrote a historical work.[99] However, unlike them, who wrote their personal life stories, Abdallah recorded a history of the Yao people, Chiikala cha Wayao in Swahili, which Meredith Sanderson translated into English. In his work Abdallah tells readers that his Yao history was based on enquiries on the subject from the elders of the Yao tribe.[100] He records the origins of the Yao people from one place, their dispersion, their different tribes/clans, their various customs and traditions.[101] Throughout he interrupts his story, moaning again and again the passing away of “‘the good old times’ which never return,” almost suggesting that the advent of European rule was not so much a blessing as it contributed to the destruction of the “good” olden ways “which will never return.”[102]

He portrayed the Yao as a militarily powerful nation compared to the others, notably the Nyanja, more adventurous and more innovative than the others. Prominent in this history is the theme of military conquests. He boasted about the military strength of chief Makanjila whom he elevates almost to the level of “king”. In particular, he extols the valour of Makanjila in his military campaigns in a bid to expand his territory and how he finally engaged in war with the British and the Portuguese in 1895.[103]

Abdallah’s attempt to record the Yao tribal history has raised the interesting question of his identity. Was he writing to justify his claim to be a Yao? Did he just write out of curiosity? Alpers believed he wrote to justify his identity as a Yao and to give himself a purpose in his retirement.[104] Just as Hine observed that Abdallah’s interpretation of his experiences in the Holy Land was coloured by his Biblical knowledge and the church hymns about Jerusalem with which he was familiar, it seems likely that his portrayal of the Yao history could have been influenced by his life under the British Empire, or perhaps his knowledge of the triumphant Biblical history of the Israelites with which he was familiar.

Growing up under the English missionaries, it is very likely that Abdallah internalized their attitudes of racial superiority over others expressed in imperial notions of a “great nation” or race. This attitude found expression in his history of the Yao. That the UMCA missionaries observed that Abdallah regarded himself as a “chief” and other Africans (clergy) as “slaves” suggests that Abdallah identified himself with what he regarded as a “superior nation” of the Yao.[105] This attitude could have motivated Abdallah to write a history of his tribe, which he portrayed as superior to the others. Abdallah treated Yao history as that of triumph over the other “inferior” races. As Alpers stated Chiikala cha Wayao was inspired by Abdallah’s recent experience of the Holy Land.[106] In “researching” and compiling the Yao history, Abdallah utilised the powerful Enlightenment tool of literacy to assert his African identity.[107] In his study of Tiyo Soga, David Attwell noted Soga’s “transculturation” of the English language and culture as a tool of the Enlightenment when he translated the Pilgrim’s Progress into IsiXhosa.[108] Just as Soga utilized European tools and symbols to enhance African cultural pride and identity, so Abdallah using literacy as a tool of the Enlightenment asserted a history and the traditions of his ethnic group, the Yao.

In terms of the Comaroffs’ argument, Abdallah’s interaction with the European colonizers had raised his consciousness to the degree that he was now critical of the impact of European ways on his Yao culture and traditions.[109] As James Scott argued, resistance can be subtle, almost mute, sometimes symbolically asserted by the subordinate groups or individuals. Thus in recording Yao culture, traditions and history, while positioning himself right at the centre of Western civilization, Abdallah sought to resist, albeit covertly, the further effects of Western influence. In this sense, Abdallah’s history of the Yao can be regarded as coded “resistance” or subtle “protest literature”.

The Last Years

In 1922, Hine’s successor, Cathrew Fisher, bishop of Nyasaland, elevated Abdallah’s junior colleague, Augustine Ambali to the position of canon.[110] By virtue of his appointment, Ambali became the first African priest to occupy the highest rank, below that of a bishop, in the diocese of Nyasaland. Alongside the white clergy, he now became one of the bishop’s official advisers. By this appointment Abdallah, who until now was the most senior African clergyman in the diocese, was sidelined. Why was he not promoted? Commenting on Ambali’s appointment, Fisher stated that he had been impressed by the simplicity of Ambali. Was Abdallah not simple in his lifestyle? Hine’s letter, cited above, charged that Abdallah had adopted European habits that made him believe he was more important than the ordinary African. Hine had vowed to change Abdallah to retain his African simplicity. It would appear that by 1922 Hine (as all other missionaries), had never entirely succeeded in changing the lifestyle that Abdallah had adopted in the previous years and the time Hine worked with him at Unangu, and perhaps for the rest of his ministry for in 1922, Hine’s successor, Fisher, sidelined Abdallah when he promoted his junior, Augustine Ambali, to the position of canon. It is also possible that the missionaries did not trust Abdallah enough with regard to the mission’s policy of total abstinence in spite of his assurance to the contrary.

More importantly, Abdallah’s history of the Yao suggests his resentment of the dying out of the Yao traditions and culture that he seemed to attribute to the advent of European rule in East and Central Africa. It is possible that after his return from the Holy Land he had become too critical of the Europeans’ role in Africa and that the missionaries were not comfortable with his attitude. Moreover, the missionaries’ perception that Abdallah regarded himself as a “chief” over the others could have diminished their confidence in him. Yet in spite of all this, Abdallah was a very successful priest, who for twenty-six years, amidst most trying circumstances and very difficult conditions at Unangu and the entire region, raised a strong Christian congregation.


In 1924 Abdallah set out to take a holiday in Zanzibar. When he reached Medo, he was taken seriously ill and he died on 11 February, 1924, probably from pneumonia due to exposure to rains and swollen rivers and streams.[111] John Hine wrote the following about Abdallah:

He loved his work…he cared very much for the people he had to shepherd. He was never married, having taken a vow to a single life. He has died before he grew too old; before he lost his energy for work. I am not unmindful of his failings and weak points - there was an ‘aloofness’ about him in his relation to other native workers in the Diocese, they were mostly ‘slaves’ and he was a ‘chief. In all matters of finance he was hopeless and could never keep accounts. I am thankful for his strength and faithful service.[112]

When Abdallah died, he had been a priest at Unangu for thirty years, mostly working alone. Amidst difficulties, he had raised up a robust Christian community. It is important that amongst the positive qualities that Hine enumerated was Abdallah’s ability to shepherd the people, perhaps reinforced by his single status. It is equally remarkable that for his “failings and weak points” Hine also noted his “aloofness” as he regarded himself as a “chief” and the others as his “slaves”. This character tended to conflict with the simplicity that the UMCA required of its clergy. This was an attitude that was part of his Yao background and as a son of a chief.


Abdallah’s life and ministry were remarkable. His ability to work alone for thirty years in very difficult and often trying circumstances, and often in the face of the raids at Unangu, can be attributed to a number of factors. Fundamentally, this was possible due to his training at Kiungani College, particularly the grounding that he received while working under the independent-minded Cecil Majaliwa in Zanzibar. Drawing from this experience, he was able to stand alone at Unangu in the diocese of Malawi even amidst adverse and difficult circumstances. Being the first ordained African clergyman in the diocese of Nyasaland and a son of a Yao chief strengthened his position amongst the Africans, and in particular the Yao clergy.

His position as a son of a Yao chief strengthened his influence among the Yao chiefs, hence his ability to win their support for the UMCA mission at Unangu. Similarly, his knowledge of African people and life, the Yao language, culture and traditions in particular, proved invaluable to the work of the UMCA in the Yao region of the diocese. However, his superior attitudes over the Nyanja regarding them as his “slaves” tended to undermine his position as a “leader” of the African clergy in the diocese. His initiative in compiling the Yao history in a “scholarly” manner of “research” and his written record of his experiences in the Holy Land intellectually put him ahead of the other African clergy in the diocese, notably, Augustine Ambali, Petro Kilekwa and Lawrence Chisui, who wrote their own stories.

On the other hand, his tendency in adopting the European lifestyle made him unpopular before the missionaries, but also suggests covert resistance to longstanding missionary rule of simplicity. His critical remarks on the negative impact of the European rule on the Yao culture and tradition in his Yao history suggest his resistance to European rule, on one hand, and his affirmation of the African culture and tradition, on the other. There is no doubt that in Abdallah the UMCA made a strategic appointment to the Yao-dominated Unangu mission in 1894.

Henry Mbaya


1 J. Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church” in D. O’Connor, (ed.), Three Centuries of Mission, The USPG 1701-2000 (London: Continuum, 2000), 335.

2 J. Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” 336.

3 Y. Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, “The Yaos” (London: Frank Cass, 1973), Edited and translated by Meredith Sanderson, viii.

4 Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” 336.

5 Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church.”

6 Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church.”

7 Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” xii.

8 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 1859-1909, vol. 1 (London: UMCA, 1955), 143.

9 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 1859-1909, vol. 1, 138-142.

10 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 1859-1909, vol. 1 142.

11 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 1859-1909, vol. 1 337.

12 Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” 339.

13 E.F. Russel, ed., Life of Bishop Smythies (London: UMCA, 1898), 217.

14 Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, 26-30.

15 Russel, Life of Bishop Smythies, 217.

16 Central Africa, May 1904, No. 257, xxii.

17 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 125-126.

18 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 125-126; Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, 46.

19 Correspondence, Johnson to Harry Johnstone, 21 November, 1895. UX E I, Letters from Africa to D. Travers, UMCA Secretary. Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

20 B. Pachai, Malawi: The History of the Nation (London: Longman, 1973), 59.

21 B. Pachai, Malawi: The History of the Nation, 195.

22 UX E I, Letters from Africa to D. Travers, UMCA Secretary 1894, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

23 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 178.

24 UX-E I. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

25 Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” 337.

26 Correspondence, W.R Johnson to UMCA Secretary, D. Travers, 21/11/1895, UX 127 I, Letters from Africa. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford. See also Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 214-216.

27 UX E I, Letters from Africa to UMCA Secretary 1894. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

28 UX E I, Letters from Africa to UMCA Secretary 1894. The missing word in the first line of this quote is unclear in the original manuscript. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford. At the turn of the twentieth century the UMCA was fast going through many changes with regard to its ethos and traditions. For instance, in his essay, “Building a Home-Grown Church”, Jerome Moriyama showed how transformation was taking place in the UMCA in Zanzibar. Similarly, in more detail, Beryl Brough in her thesis, Archdeacon William Percieval Johnson Nyasaland, M.A. Thesis, Grengory University, 1997, discussed how the arrival of a new breed of missionaries in Malawi from 1906, like Bishop Gerard Trower, began to reform the traditions and the modus operandi of the mission, a gradual shift from traditional mission policy of simplicity and adaption to African conditions to Europeanization.

29 UMCA 1 (I) A, Extract from a letter from Bishop Tozer to the Bishop of Lincoln, dated Zanzibar 17 June 1865, 132-33. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

30 G. Ward, Life of Bishop Smythies (London: UMCA, 1912), 191-192.

31 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 220.

32 For this episode, see Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, Ch. 2 and 3.

33 See Resolution on Native Conference held at Likoma in 1904, Likoma Quarterly Diocesan Paper, No. 17, 1907.

34 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 17. Oct. 1907.

35 Abdallah’s letter, Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 34, 1912.

36 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 194.

37 See Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” 334.

38 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, 24th November 1906.

39 R.M. Heanley, A Memoir of Edward Steere (London: George Bell and Sons, 1888), 324.

40 Heanley, A Memoir of Edward Steere.

41 Heanley, A Memoir of Edward Steere.

42 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, 24 November 1906.

43 Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” 338-339.

44 Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” 339.

45 See Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 228, 257, 270, 274.

46 See Blood, The History of the UMCA, chapter xxiii. For instance, writing to Canon Spanton on 3 October, 1928, A.G. Blood reported to him about Bishop Frank Weston marrying African couples, Efrida and Alfred Kasembe in an “English wedding”. He went on to state that, “the bridegroom wearing English clothes which were happily a decent fit and he really looked respectable and the bride clad in a white dress and wearing a long white veil for which, in the procession after leaving the cathedral, she had a little brides’ maid also dressed in white. It made quite a respectable train and really looked quite pretty - much as I dislike Africans in European clothes in the ordinary way. There was, however, one rather heavy brick: the bride finished her toilette with a pair of golf stockings and white canvas shoes which were several sizes too big.” Then Blood wrote a cautionary note saying: “This paragraph not for publication please.” SF 11 IE, Masasi 1928-30. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

47 Correspondence, Abdallah to D. Travers, UMCA Secretary General, London, Letters from Africa to D. Travers, UX-E I, 14 October, 1894. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

48 Correspondence, Abdallah to Travers, UX -EI, Letters from Africa to D. Travers, 31 July 1895. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

49 See David Attwell, “The Transculturation of Enlightenment, The Exemplary Case of the Rev Tiyo Soga, African Nationalist,” in The Making of an Indigenous Clergy in Southern Africa, 41-57. Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publication, 1995; M. Goedhals, “Ungumpriste: A Study of the Life of Peter Masiza, First Black Priest in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, No. 68 (September, 1989), 23; Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, p. 143.

50 J. Weiler, and J. Linden, Mainstream Christianity to 1980 in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Gweru: Mambo Press, 1984), 129-130.

51 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 11, April, 1906 282.

52 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 20., July 1908.

53 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 6., January 1905.

54 Nyasaland Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 5. October 1904.

55 Weiler and Linden, Mainstream Christianity, 168-169.

56 On this issue see the autobiography of Henry Chipembere, Rotberg, I. (ed.), Hero of the Nation: Chipembere of Malawi: An Autobiography, Kachere Book No. 12 (Blantyre: CLAIM, 2002), 185.

57 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 4, May 1903.

58 UX- EI, Letters from Africa to D. Travers. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

59 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, Nos. 1 to 4, January 1904, 22.

60 See for instance Moriyama, “Building a Home-Grown Church,” 334-335.

61 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, July 1904, No. 4.

62 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, July 1908.

63 Denis, “Missionaries from Within,” 58.

64 Denis, “Missionaries from Within,” 58.

65 Central Africa, March, 1903, No. 243.

66 Nyasaland Diocesan Quarterly Paper, July 1909, No. 24.

67 Blood, The History of the UMCA, 26.

68 Blood, The History of the UMCA, 26.

69 Blood, The History of the UMCA, 26.

70 Nyasaland Diocesan Quarterly Paper, 4 April, 1909, No. 23.

71 Nyasaland Diocesan Quarterly Paper, 4 April, 1909, No. 27.

72 Nyasaland Diocesan Quarterly Paper, 4 April, 1909, No. 130.

73 Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, 92.

74 See Anderson-Morsehead, The History of the UMCA, and A.G., Blood, The History of the UMCA, 1907-1932, vol. 2.

75 Correspondence, Abdallah to D. Travers, 14 October, 1894, Letters from Africa, UX-EI. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

76 Correspondence, Abdallah to D. Travers, 14 October, 1894.

77 UX-E1, Letters from Africa to D. Travers, 30 April, 1896. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

78 J. Hine, Days Gone By (London: William Clowes and Sons, 1892), 149.

79 Correspondence, Abdallah to Travers, 16, January, 1898, Letters from Africa, UX-EI. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

80 Correspondence, Abdallah to Travers, 14, April, 1898, Letters from Africa, UX-EI. USPG Archives, Bodleian Library of the Commonwealth, Rhodes House, Oxford.

81 Correspondence, Abdallah to Travers, 14, April, 1898.

82 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 7, September 1903.

83 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, No. 4, 1903 81.

84 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, April 9, 1907.

85 R.G. Stuart, “Christianity and the Chewa: The Anglican Case 1885-1950,” (Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1974), 12.

86 Stuart, “Christianity and the Chewa.”

87 Stuart, “Christianity and the Chewa.”

88 Stuart, “Christianity and the Chewa,” 7.

89 Stuart, “Christianity and the Chewa.”

90 Goedhals, “Ungumpriste: A Study of the Life of Peter Masiza,” 26-27.

91 Blood, The History of the UMCA, 60-61.

92 Blood, The History of the UMCA, 61.

93 Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, 28.

94 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, April, 1906, No. 14; J. Hine, Days Gone By, 149.

95 Hine, Days Gone By, 149.

96 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, April, 1906, No. 14.

97 Likoma Diocesan Quarterly Paper, April, 1906, No. 14.

98 Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, 28.

99 Augustine Ambali wrote Thirty Years in Nyasaland, (London: UMCA, 1924); Petro Kilekwa, The Autobiography of Petro Kilekwa, Slave Boy to Priest, (London: UMCA, 1937); Manfred Mabundo, An African David and Jonathan (London: UMCA, 1927).

100 See Abdallah, “Preface,” Chiikala cha Wayao.

101 Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, 7.

102 Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, 13.

103 Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, 45-46.

104 Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, xii.

105 Blood, The History of the UMCA, 178.

106 Abdallah, Chiikala cha Wayao, xi.

107 Enlightenment refers to the 18th and early 19th century period in the West that tended to stress rationalism as a philosophy. Rationalism emphasized the importance of the written word as a means to “enlighten” those who were unenlightened, the illiterate.

108 “The Transculturation of Enlightenment: The Exemplary Case of the Rev Tiyo Soga, African Nationalist” in Denis, (ed.)., The Making of an Indigenous Clergy in Southern Africa, 43.

109 Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution (The University of Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995); also Jean and John Comaroff, Ethnography and the Historical Imagination (San Francisco: Boulder, Oxford: Westview Press, 1991), 235.

110 Linden and Weiler, Mainstream Christianity in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to 1980, 106.

111 Blood, The History of the UMCA, 178.

112 Blood, The History of the UMCA.

This biography was adapted, with permission, from Henry Mbaya, “Yohanna Abdallah: An African Missionary to the Yao in the Anglican Diocese of Nyasaland, Nyasaland (Malawi), 1894 - 1924.” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, 137 (2010): 61-87.