Interpreting Luguru Religious Practice through Colonialist Eyes: Child Sacrifice and East African Dance in Brett Young’s The Crescent Moon
Public perceptions of indigenous African religious life have been heavily influenced by its representation in imaginative literature and film, both before and after serious scholarly investigations yielded detailed analyses in little-read professional journals and other academic publications. While serving as a medical officer in German East Africa (present-day Tanzania) during the First World War, the increasingly popular English novelist and poet Francis Brett Young, who would eventually write nine books set in sub- Saharan Africa and die in Cape Town in 1954, described Luguru religious practices in his widely praised non-fictional account Marching on Tanga and his first African novel, The Crescent Moon. It is argued in the present article that Brett Young severely misrepresented his subject, not least by ascribing child sacrifice to the Luguru. His presentation of this ostensible dimension of tribal worship as a vestige of transplanted ancient Semitic propitiation rituals is found to be unwarranted.
Keywords: Francis Brett Young, Luguru, African religion, child sacrifice, East Africa, Tanzania, missionaries