Early Christianism in Africa

Biographies of powerful African women written by Africans in an African language: Women were admired in Ethiopia, where some of them had become saints in the Ethiopian church and had had hagiographies written about them. 'The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros' (1672) tells the story of an Ethiopian religious leader who led a successful nonviolent movement to preserve African Christian beliefs in the face of European protocolonialism. When the Jesuits tried to convert the Ethiopians from their ancient form of Christianity, Walatta Petros (1592–1642), a noblewoman and the wife of one of the emperor’s counselors, risked her life by leaving her husband, who supported the conversion effort, and leading the struggle against the Jesuits. After her death, her disciples wrote this book, praising her as a friend of women, a devoted reader, a skilled preacher, and a radical leader. One of the earliest stories of African resistance to European influence, this biography also provides a picture of domestic life, including Walatta Petros’s life-long relationship with a female companion. This biography contains the earliest known depiction of same-sex desire among women in sub-Saharan Africa. Speaking of her fellow nun Eheta Kristos, the text says that “love was infused into both their hearts, love for one another, and... they were like people who had known each other” their whole lives. Walatta Petros and Kristos “lived together in mutual love, like soul and body. From that day onward the two did not separate, neither in times of tribulation and persecution, nor in those of tranquillity, but only in death”. “There is no doubt that the two women were involved in a lifelong partnership of romantic friendship”.

4. Dezember 2015