Publication details [#20629]

Mattalucci, Claudia. 2009. Traduire les noms de Dieu [Translating the names of God]. In Lassave, Pierre, ed. Traduire l'intraduisible [Translating the untranslatable]. Special issue of Archives de sciences sociales des religions 147 (3): 105–123.
Publication type
Article in Special issue
Publication language


The translation of the name of the Christian God into African languages is not simple. A dual strategy emerges from the ethnography of religion conducted by Missionaries of Africa in Buhaya (Northwest Tanzania). On the one hand, several authors were able to locate the attributes of the Christian God within the names of local deities. These were considered alleged traces of a primitive monotheism, something which was later overlaid by false beliefs. On the other hand, and in order to mark the difference of the true God from the ancestors and from the spirits of the kubandawa religion, some of the missionary ethnographers underlined the former’s extraneity to both rituals of possession and forms of exchange with other spiritual entities. These strategies, however, failed to make African deities and the Christian Divinity commensurable, and to legitimate any translation of the name of God into an indigenous one.
Source : Abstract in journal