Myth and Political Mythmaking in the Narratives about Mwalimu Julius Nyerere among the Banyakyusa
This study examines myth and political mythmaking about Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, in the narratives told by the Banyakyusa people of southwest Tanzania. It examines the constructions of Nyerere as a person and a political leader in selected Banyakyusa myths. The study responds to four research questions: In what ways are Nyerere’s personal endowments and endeavours mythically re-created in Banyakyusa narratives?; How is Nyerere’s political career represented in Banyakyusa myths?; How are the Banyakyusa’s beliefs towards Nyerere’s perceived involvement in the Lake Nyasa Conflict and the Kagera War reconstructed in their narratives?; and what do the Banyakyusa myths about Nyerere tell us about myth, political mythmaking, and the Banyakyusa people? Using the mythological and narrative theories, which looks at the employment and meaning of common imagery in works of literature that carry society beliefs, perceptions and knowledge, this study examines structure, themes and imagery used in the mythmaking about Nyerere among the Banyakyusa to capture their beliefs, experiences and perceptions of him. Also, using the new historicism approach, which involves a parallel reading of literary and non-literary texts; the study examines and establishes arguments on the representation of Nyerere in some of the Banyakyusa myths based on their interplay with the representation of Nyerere in historical and biographical texts. Through oral history as the research design, the myths were collected from Busokelo, Kyela and Rungwe Districts in Tanzania by oral history interviews and content analysis methods. The findings of the study established that Banyakyusa myths project Nyerere as a person who had supernatural and mystical powers, which were partly vested in his stick. These powers protected, guided, and enabled him to foresee future events. It is also widely believed that Nyerere’s mother had mystical powers. The findings of the study further established that Nyerere’s supernatural and mystical powers helped him to win against colonialists, facilitated the acceptance and prominence of his ideas, and generated victory in Lake Nyasa Conflict and the Kagera War. These findings are consistent with Banyakyusa beliefs that a leader should have mystical powers to make him/her majestic, inspire fear and command obedience, thus the use of images like ikingila, inyifwila, lion, python and rain.