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The Land beyond the Mists

Essays in Identity & Authority in Precolonial Congo and Rwanda

David Newbury

Publication Year: 2009

The horrific tragedies of Central Africa in the 1990s riveted the attention of the world. But these crises did not occur in a historical vacuum. By peering through the mists of the past, the case studies presented in The Land Beyond the Mists illustrate the significant advances to have taken place since decolonization in our understanding of the pre-colonial histories of Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern Congo.

Based on both oral and written sources, these essays are important both for their methods—viewing history from the perspective of local actors—and for their conclusions, which seriously challenge colonial myths about the area.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

... of Central Africa, with their seemingly endless equatorial forests, and the open landscapes on the seemingly endless undulating plateaus of East Africa, there lies a dramatic seam, a huge valley filled with a few big lakes, flanked by high mountain chains and marked by a few spectacular volcanoes. The history and cultures of the dense populations that lie athwart this seam and provide the junction between two such different portions of Africa ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

... at the center of Africa had long been neglected by the rest of the world. That changed from the 1990s. Drawn by the moral imperatives of multiple catastrophes,many outsiders have since then become aware of— indeed, deeply involved with—the peoples of this fascinating and beautiful region. However, because many such visitors were new to the field, they arrived with but ...

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pp. xv-xvi

... fed by multiple springs, streams, and sluices that combine in ways that are always changing, always forming anew. In their growth and development, the original sources may seem indistinguishable, but they remain essential to the shape and power of the flow. So, too, are the friendships that have gone into forty years of reflection on the people and patterns represented in these essays. What ultimately takes the ...

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Introduction: Peering through the Mists

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pp. 1-22

... refer to the islands in Lake Kivu as “the land beyond the mists.” Indeed, morning mists are common in this area, and when they arrive they affect our vision of the landforms in interesting ways. Through the mists we see those lands only dimly and in altered configurations: there is mystery in the mists, and intrigue in their changing artistry. But the phrase is not only a meteorological description of the lake at dawn: it is also ...

Part 1. Historiography

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Chapter 1. Bushi and the Historians: Historiographical Themes in Eastern Kivu

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pp. 25-43

... are still in their very infancy. Recent work has been carried out in Bufulero, Bushi, Buhavu, and Bunande, but, lacking the results of these studies, historians working from published materials have very few sources at their disposal. Existing sources include works by Colle, Moeller, Willame, and Cuypers,with the latter two based primarily on the former, at least ...

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Chapter 2. Recent Historical Research in the Area of Lake Kivu: Rwanda and Zaire

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pp. 44-62

... marked an important watershed not only for the history of the country but also for its historiography. Within Rwandan historical studies these political changes encouraged the development of a more broadly based analysis, one that went beyond the earlier tendency to focus on the Nyiginya royal court. The effects of this new historiography were not limited to Rwanda alone, however, since historical perceptions ultimately ...

Part 2. The Lake Kivu Arena

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Chapter 3. Lake Kivu Regional Trade in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 65-83

... of trade and markets in West Africa has only belatedly been taken up in East African historiography.1For the most part this debate has focused on the origin of markets; the two most extreme positions attribute them either to a “propensity to trade” at the local level or to contacts with long-distance trade routes linked directly to the global economy.2 ...

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Chapter 4. Kamo and Lubambo: Dual Genesis Traditions on Ijwi Island

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pp. 84-128

... of trade and markets in West Africa has only belatedly been taken up in East African historiography.1 For the most part this debate has focused on the origin of markets; the two most extreme positions attribute them either to a “propensity to trade” at the local level or to contacts with long-distance trade routes linked directly to the global economy.2 ...

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Chapter 5. The Campaigns of Rwabugiri

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pp. 129-141

... the history of Rwanda in the late nineteenth century. Renowned as the quintessential military monarch of Rwandan history, Rwabugiri embarked on military expeditions virtually every year of his long reign (1865–95). The effect of this within Rwanda was momentous, for through his army commands he sought to circumvent the intricate politics of the dominant factions at the court, and by his constant movement he ...

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Chapter 6. Rwabugiri and Ijwi

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pp. 142-160

Mwami Kigeri Rwabugiri, king of Rwanda, dominates the history of the later nineteenth century in the Lake Kivu region, not only for Rwanda but for virtually all the neighboring countries to which he turned his attention.1 His prominence can be accounted for as much by his almost mythical association with other events as by his own heroic exploits. In the broadest terms, the arrival of Rwabugiri on Ijwi shattered the relative peace and stability of ...

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Chapter 7. King and Chief on Ijwi Island

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pp. 161-186

... colonial rule in Africa was an academic focus on the process of elite formation in African societies. A product of the perceived political needs of the early independence period, this perspective generally emphasized manpower development as the critical element of bureaucratic stability and political modernization. It was postulated that individual leaders were progressive nation builders, in contrast to the backward and conservative masses, ...

Part 3. The Rwanda Arena

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Chapter 8. The Clans of Rwanda: A Historical Hypothesis

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pp. 189-203

... African historical studies broken away from their fixation on dynastic histories and trade. In reassessing the dynastic traditions, historians of the African past have increasingly drawn on oral traditions from non royal sources. In particular, they have placed a great deal of emphasis on clan traditions, and the clan group has consequently served as an important building block in reconstructing the African past.1 But in Rwandan ...

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Chapter 9. Bunyabungo: The Western Frontier in Rwanda, ca. 1750-1850

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pp. 204-228

... is paradoxical: distinct from the metropolitan society, a frontier society can only be defined and perceived in relation to the cultural heartland of which it is an extension. This relationship between frontier and metropole is critical, differentiating the frontier from other types of “peripheral” areas, such as the “bush” or the “outback.” From the perspective of the metropole, the bush and the outback are seen negatively, as truly ...

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Chapter 10. What Role Has Kingship? An Analysis of the Umuganura Ritual of Rwanda as presented in M. d’Hertefelt and A. Coupez, La royauté sacrée de l’ancien Rwanda

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pp. 229-251

... kingdoms portray the king as the dominant central figure of royal rituals of precolonial African states. This essay reevaluates the role of kingship as expressed in the rituals of umuganura, the First Fruits ceremony of Rwanda. By accounting for the ritual as a whole rather than focusing on the role of a single person, the analysis shows the monarch as ...

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Chapter 11. Trick Cyclists? Recontextualizing Rwandan Dynastic Chronology

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pp. 252-278

... object of great interest among African historians because it was seen as essential to history, it provided exactitude where so much else was interpretive, and it was such a challenging feature to determine from oral accounts. More recently, historical analysis has been concerned more with processes and periods than with defined events and dates.1 ...

Part 4. Perceiving History through the Mists

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Chapter 12. Precolonial Burundi and Rwanda: Local Loyalties, Regional Royalties

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pp. 281-340

... that African history has its own history. In many areas of the world, historians first focused on national units. But one of the characteristics of the relatively young field of African history is that in many instances historians’ concerns moved rapidly beyond any “nationalistic” phase to address thematic issues.1 To do so often meant moving beyond political ...


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pp. 341-416


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pp. 417-436


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pp. 437-444

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443408
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821418758

Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 763019171
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Land beyond the Mists

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Kivu, Lake, Region (Congo and Rwanda) -- History.
  • Rwanda -- History.
  • Rwanda -- Historiography.
  • Kivu, Lake, Region (Congo and Rwanda) -- Historiography.
  • Ethnology -- Kivu, Lake, Region (Congo and Rwanda).
  • Ethnology -- Congo (Democratic Republic).
  • Congo (Democratic Republic) -- Historiography.
  • Congo (Democratic Republic) -- History.
  • Ethnology -- Rwanda.
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