An encounter with Umutima Walowa founder

The author, Tarcisius Mukuka, pictured with Umulondoshi (Guide), Emilio Chishimba Mulolani, founder of Umutima Walowa Wa Makumbi (Sweet Heart of the Clouds) outside the Archbishop’s residence in Kasama on a field trip on 31 August 2010.

This week Zambia Daily Mail published excerpts from an article by TARCISIUS MUKUKA who met and interviewed cult leader of Mutima Walowa church Emilio Mulolani.
MY meeting with ‘the prophet’ was one of those, “once in a life time” opportunities. One of those rare moments that made the famous Greek Scientist Archimedes to exclaim “Eureka” (I have found) and would justify a journalistic scoop. My Eureka moment was when I met one of Zambia’s pre-colonial and post-colonial religious icons. He goes by various nomenclatures. His birth names are Emilio ChishimbaMulolani while his spiritual names include: Chibwe (Peter), Yakobo (Jacob), Israel, Umulondoshi (Guide) and Chishimbula (Revealer). To his followers he is known simply as Umulondoshi. During the interview I addressed him as Shikulu (Grandfather).
To many people, old enough to remember him, Emilio Mulolani is synonymous with the African Independent Church he founded in the 1950s known as Umutima Walowa Wa Makumbi (Sweet heart of the clouds) or as the Church is more popularly known, Ba Mutima (Followers of the Heart) or Ba Emilio(Followers of Emilio). Many people who remember this Church associate it with rumours that abounded in the 1960s and have now resurfaced that nudity was central to Ba Mutima’s worship and ritual as recent articles in the Sunday Mail witness.
Adherents of Umutima Walowa Wa Makumbi could be easily identified by the greeting: “May the truth be known very well so that the people may be saved. Glory to God and to people who are submissive to him”.
As a young man growing up in Ndola I first saw Emilio Mulolani at Lutanda Hall in Ndola when he was being welcomed by his followers with scenes redolent of messianic overtones, probably after one of his several spells behind bars. I was then eight years old. At the age of 53 and not exactly in the prime of my life I had this opportunity to meet Emilio Mulolani face to face. The encounter took place at the Catholic Archbishop’s Residence in Kasama on August 31, 2010.
My odyssey started while I was in the United Kingdom working on a research project entitled: “Teelela Mulumbe Postcolonial Biblical Hermeneutics: Hearing/reading the Bible In terra nullius and reception of rom 13: 1–7 in Bembaland and the Copperbelt [ZAMBIA].” My main question was: Whether and how colonial and postcolonial concerns impacted on how the Bible was transmitted, translated and received in the mainly Bemba speaking Catholic dioceses of Zambia: Kasama, Mansa, Mpika and Ndola. One of my main chapters was entitled “Socio-Religious Protests: Lumpa and Bana Ba Mutima Movements in a Postcolonial Perspective.” This explains my interest in Emilio Mulolani and Ba Mutima.
White Fathers Archives
When I arrived in Lusaka my first port of call was the White Fathers Archives in Bauleni, Lusaka in June 2010. There I met a very helpful White Father, Benhard Udolhaven, who promised me that he would try and put me in contact with Ba Mutima either in Bauleni or Chazanga where what may be called the movement’s mother Church is to be found, “Namfumu Wa Zambia” referring to the central role played by the Blessed Virgin Mary in Emilio Mulolani’s mariocentric theology. Namfumu Wa Zambia may probably have a rival in Namfumu We Tuna in Kasama for the claim of MotherChurch.
Emilio Mulolani, I later learnt, prefers to call these “Churches” Umusumba (Royal City). I asked whether Emilio Mulolani was still alive. My contact told me: “He is still alive but moves around the country regularly and is not tied down to any location.” At that point my contact phoned Kasama and the part of the conversation I could follow went something like this: “Apostle, may the Truth be known very well so that the people may be saved. Glory to God and to people who are submissive to him!”
Where is the Guide? Is he in Kwa Kasama? That is alright. Thank you very much. Greet the Guide). At that point my contact turned to me: “Umulondoshi is in Kasama but he is very old and may not have long to live. If you go to Kasama make an effort to interview him. If you contacted the White Fathers in Kasama, especially Fr Pierre Lafollie, he may be able to point you in the right direction.”
And so it was that I found myself in Kasama on a field trip. My contact with Umulondoshi was a rather circuitous one as would be expected. One does not just turn up and say “I am here to interview Umulondoshi.” I travelled to Luwingu where I was told there was a member of Ba Mutima who runs a grocery shop near the market. After introducing myself and gaining her confidence she rang one of Umulondoshi’s aides: Bubile Chibukisho Chanda to whom I spoke on the phone and expressed my desire to meet Umulondoshi. She assured me she would pass on my request and it was a surprise, when the following day she informed me that Umulondoshi was happy to grant me an audience. I immediately travelled back to Kasama, got in contact with Bubile Chibukisho Chanda who assured me that Umulondoshi was prepared to come to my place of residence.
And so it was that Umulondoshi arrived just before 09.30 hours. Umulondoshi arrived, accompanied by his driver, a young man and one of the aides, Bubile Chibukisho Chanda, equally young. Umulondoshi was a man of slight build, about 1.63 metres tall. For a man of 88 years of age, he was in fine fettle. After greeting me, without the usual protocol, I had been drilled to expect, he told me he was looking forward to meeting me and that apart from his failing eyes he was in excellent health. Two minutes into our interview this was confirmed by the man’s phenomenal memory and intelligence, which bordered on genius.
Umulondoshi hails from Katuli village, Ipusukilo mission near Luwingu. Emilio Mulolani’s grandparents were Simon Makumbi and Monica Kabamba. They had seven children, the first one being the mother of Emilio Mulolani, Chilufya (baptised as Helen). Her other siblings were: Leoford, Donald, Edward, Romano, Lawrence and Theresa. Chilufya, Emilio Mulolani’s mother grew up to be an intelligent and hardworking young lady. One day, while working for a famous Scottish businessman in Kasama, known as William “Mandala” Stuart, the latter took a shine to the young lady and asked for her hand in marriage, bearing three children: Bernadette, Abraham and William.
Stuart was called up for military service during the First World War (1914–1918) but took long to return. Chilufya returned to her home village in Ipusukilo and was married to Mulolani and so was born Emilio. Stuart returned from military service, long after the Armistice and asked to have his wife back. He hated the young Emilio, planning to get rid of him. Realising that Mandala Stuart would never take to Emilio, Chilufya took the young Emilio back to her mother Monica in Ipusukilo.
It was she who suckled the young Emilio: “It was from her that I suckled”, explained Umulondoshi. Once Umulondoshi was in a train of thought he did not like to be interrupted with any questions as I came to learn. Emilio attended primary schools at Nsombo, Ipusukilo, Lubwe and Kapatu and proceeded to Lubushi Minor Seminary. By his own account he appears to have excelled in school. After Lubushi , he proceeded to Tabora’s Kipalapala Major Seminary with the view of training for the Catholic priesthood.
On returning from Tanganyika during the 1940s he served as an untrained teacher while preparing to train as a teacher. He went to Chalimbana Teacher Training College after which he was posted to Luanshya for his first teaching appointment. It was while he was teaching in Luanshya that he had his first revelatory religious experience. By my reckoning this appears to have been around 1951, the year considered as the beginning of the African dispensation and the end of the European dispensation. At that time all the priests in Ndola Diocese were missionary, mainly from Italy.
He describes his religious experience as a shaking of the house in which he was sleeping as if it were an earthquake. Then he experienced a searing cold run through his body followed by a very bright light: “I felt something very cold followed by a vision of a very bright light”. When he went to see the Franciscan priests in Luanshya he told them: “You have hidden God from the black people and you do not show true love”, citing the practice of segregating men and women during Church services.
The Franciscan priest whom he identified only as Fr Nicholas [Agnozzi] told him: “You have become a heretic.” Later he arranged to drive him to Ndola to see Bishop Francis Mazzieri. Bishop Mazzieri recommended that he be taken to a psychiatrist at Ndola Central Hospital. After one week he was released. At this point in the interview Umulondoshi switched to English: “The psychiatrist gave me a report which said: This man is neither sick nor hallucinatory. He is sane although he appears to be quite restless. He also displays symptoms of a religious maniac.” After pausing, Umulondoshi continued, “The psychiatrist was right. There is nothing wrong in being a religious maniac. In English when you tell someone that they are a cycling maniac you simply mean that they love cycling. The same was true for me. From an early age I was a person of deep faith.”
After he was taken to the psychiatrist he was forbidden to teach religious education in schools and to visit Christians in the compounds. At the time he had his first revelatory experience he was already married to Rosa Kafula.
When I prompted him to tell me more about Rosa Kafula, he appeared surprised that I already knew about her and their three children: Maria, Theresa and Gerard. The last two are deceased and so is their mother.
(To be continued next week)
The author is a lecturer in Biblical Studies, Greek and Hebrew at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London. Email: [email protected]