Kaffir/Christian Express

Christianity’s role in the process of urbanization in the African landscape brings insight to how colonizers and African peoples negotiated political, economic, and social relationships. By looking at the positive reception of the early Christian missions by a large portion of the African community and their subsequent adoption of Christianity, it is possible to understand how the political and economic strength of future colonizers manifest itself within this Christian framework. In the Kaffir/Christian Express, a newspaper that began in 1870 in Lovedale, South Africa, on the Eastern Cape, we see the dynamism of Christianity and colonial economic aspirations of the British invaders.

            For the paper’s first edition, published October 1, 1870, a linguistic analysis is especially important in order to further dissect the relationship between the Christian colonizers and their African counterparts. The paper begins with a letter of purposeexplicitly detailing what it believes a newspaper means for a society—that well-recepted newspapers are indicative of a township’s intelligence, demonstrating high rates of literacy. Implicit in this is how such publications are a mechanism for civilizing the “barbarous people” through forms of Christian and Western cultural practice. A subsequent edition, which follows this trend, notes the desire of English colonizers to “scatter ideas in the moral wastes and desert places of heathen ignorance, and to aid general missionary work.” Thus this newspaper, which reflects the “cause of missions generally,” is both a marker of South African inhabitants’ progression towards an urban industrial society- by western standards, and medium by which British colonizers exerted control.

            Because the October 1 edition is the Kaffir Express’s first, looking to the following two editions of November and December, reveals how the British viewed the South Africans of the Eastern Cape in the late 19th century. Furthermore it underscores the shift in British colonial intention in the wake of precious mineral, diamond and gold, discovery. After what is assumed was a good reception from a literate population of “Kaffir” people[1]—the first edition made note that the newspaper’s success hindered on this, the two subsequent editions are more fully developed; there is a focus on items to be purchased, discussions regarding the morality of beer, and in the Kaffir edition, some pieces directed at the continued spread of Christian ideology, and notes of diamonds and gold. Though not decipherable to the English-reader, titles like “On Diamonds” and “Diamonds and Gold” suggest an overtly economic purpose for colonizer’s establishment of a paper-which is indicative of a developed Western township or society. Because these are placed alongside religiously oriented headlines: “How the Gospel May Be Spread in Africa” and an account on the Lovedale Missionary Institution, we can assume that the missionizing of the early 19th century helped create a space, and continues to legitimize the existence of British colonizers who aim to benefit economically from the control over the Africans of Lovedale.

            This is a brief analysis of the most striking elements of the Kaffir Express publish in Lovedale, South Africa at the end of 1870. By closely examining the structure and use of language, comparing the English and Kaffir editions—to the best of my ability, and reviewing the content of each edition, I presume to find how Christian social structures establish by missions in the 19th century enabled an economic and political interference of British colonizers after the discover of precious minerals in 1867. The Christianization of the inhabitants of Lovedale and many other South African towns on the Eastern Cape, and the important structural changes brought by missions, as reflected in these newspapers, created a space for further British dominance in the region.

[1] Kaffir was a term used for black South Africans, once considered by whites a neutral term, is now widely understood as being imbued with derogatory insinutation.