Mbala

A zealous 19th-century missionary was visiting an African tribe. He preached to them passionately about the virtues of religion and how they should change themselves and give up their wicked habits of polygamy and tribal warfare and naked dancing and see the one true light and live by the one true moral code in the hope of eternal mercy. His speech was translated by the chief, who had been educated at an English public school. At the end of each translated sentence, the tribe members would all shout ‘Mbala!’ with huge gusto and apparent enthusiasm. The preacher reached the inspiring climax of his oration and the people were all shouting ‘Mbala! Mbala! Mbala!’ over and over again, in a rhythmic chant.

The preacher was then shown to the guest hut by the solicitous chief. 1 think that went quite well,’ he said modestly to his host.

Indeed, old chap,’ said the chief, taking him by the arm to steer him through the village, along the dusty track and past the cows and the goats. ‘Mind, now, or you’ll step in the mbala!’

from Transforming Tales by Rob Parkinson

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