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Christianity as vernacular religion : a study in the theological significance of mother tongue apprehension of the Christian faith in West Africa with reference to the works of Ephraim Amu (1899-1995)

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Ephraim Amu is a distinguished musician. He is well known for his advocacy on African tradition and culture. Amu's pride in the African personality has earned him a place in Ghana's hall of fame. It was in recognition of these achievements that his portrait was embossed on Ghana's highest currency, the Twenty Thousand Cedi note. But there is more to the Amu story. In this thesis I have drawn substantially on Amu's own works to demonstrate how, in fact, he is an exemplar of mother tongue apprehension of the Christian faith in Africa. Amu showed in his songs, diaries, sermons, letters, addresses and private papers that the mother tongue, in this case, Ewe and Twi can be used to express not only Christian experience but also to formulate theological ideas in an innovative and creative ways. Amu's credentials as "African statesman" and "a self-conscious nationalist" owe not so much to Pan-African ideologies as his understanding of African culture and tradition from a biblical perspective. Amu believed that the entire universe, including the African cosmos, was created by God from the very beginning as kronkronkron (pure), pepeepe (exact), and fitafitafita (without blemish). He wrestled with the problem of (evil) and how this may have polluted an otherwise unblemished creation. Amu also wrestled with the issue of human participation in God's work of creation and the extent to which humankind may have contributed to the desecration of creation. In spite of the pollution, Amu believed that creation can be redeemed and restored to its original status by cleansing with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. This belief led him to adopt a positive stance towards African culture and tradition. Amu demonstrated this particularly in the use of language. Most of his sermons and notable musical compositions are in Twi or Ewe. He kept a diary in his mother tongue, Ewe, for almost seventy years. Amu demonstrated that by using indigenous African languages it is possible to make a fresh contribution to theological issues and thereby present African Christianity as an authentic expression to God and capable of contributing to world Christianity. Apart from language, Amu believed that other elements in the African tradition could be employed to express the Christian faith. It is in this regard that his contribution to Christian worship, particularly the use of indigenous musical instruments, must be appreciated. Amu's realisation, that "There are deep truths underlying our indigenous religions, truths which are dim representations of the great Christian truths", led him to deal with the perception that


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2006.


Amu, Ephraim, 1899-, Educators--Ghana., Musicians--Ghana., Christianity--Ghana., Ethnomusicology--Ghana., Music--Ghana--20th century., Ghana--Religion., Theses--Theology.