Carrington’s Way

Not savior, but saved one.

From The Information, by Jane’s Gleick:

It fell to John F. Carrington to explain. An English missionary, born in 1914 in Northamptonshire, Carrington left for Africa at the age of twenty-four and Africa became his lifetime home. The drums caught his attention early, as he traveled from the Baptist Missionary Society station in Yakusu, on the Upper Congo River, through the villages of the Bambole forest. One day he made an impromptu trip to the small town of Yaongama and was surprised to find a teacher, medical assistant, and church members already assembled for his arrival. They had heard the drums, they explained. Eventually he realized that the drums conveyed not just announcements and warnings but prayers, poetry, and even jokes. The drummers were not signaling but talking: they spoke a special, adapted language.

Eventually Carrington himself learned to drum. He drummed mainly in Kele, a language of the Bantu family in what is now eastern Zaire. “He is not really a European, despite the color of his skin,”a Lokele villager said of Carrington. “He used to be from our village, one of us. After he died, the spirits made a mistake and sent him off far away to a village of whites to enter into the body of a little baby who was born of a white woman instead of one of ours. But because he belongs to us, he could not forget where he came from and so he came back.”The villager added generously, “If he is a bit awkward on the drums, this is because of the poor education that the whites gave him.”

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