God's graffiti: prophetic writings and politico-religious imagination in postcolonial Gabon
Julien Bonhomme (Ecole normale supérieure)
Paper short abstract:
This paper deals with odd graffiti covering the walls of Libreville. Their writer is a self-proclaimed prophet who claims to perform the Creation through his writings. His extravagant personal mythology resorts to a political and religious imagination which finds many echoes in postcolonial Gabon.
Paper long abstract:
This paper deals with odd graffiti covering the public walls of Libreville in Gabon. Their writer, André Ondo Mba, is an eccentric character, a self-proclaimed prophet who claims to perform the divine creation through his public writings. His graffiti reveal, in an excessive manner, an ideology of writing the origin of which lies in the colonial situation and its two main pillars, mission and administration: they are Holy Scriptures and official documents at the same time. Furthermore, the locations of his graffiti map out an urban geography of power and visibility in Libreville. Indeed, Ondo Mbas' graffiti are protest writings: they challenge the authorities with a startling verbal violence, sometimes in the very front of the Presidential Palace. Ondo Mba's obsessions are political and geopolitical by nature: they deal with Gabonese politics, but also the UN Security Council or the Pope's death. The paper shows how Ondo Mba's personal mythology, though extravagant, resorts to a political and religious imagination which finds in fact many echoes in postcolonial Gabon. His public writings not only grant us access to his peculiar frame of mind; they also represent a magnifying (but also distorting) lens to understand the collective imagination.
Grappling with uncertainties: ethnographies of the imagination