Religion and Nature in Africa: The Case of Matobo National Park and its Vicinity


Dr. Kupakwashe Mtata

Research Area:


This study seeks to explore on-going encounters between European colonial and African autochthonous ontological designs of human-environment relations in contemporary Africa, with Matobo National Park of Zimbabwe as a case study. Notions such as nature, culture and religion came to southern Africa through the global processes of missionary activity and colonization. These ideas were not simply transmitted to Africa in their abstract form but as discourses embedded in social, cultural, economic, and political practices. The establishment of national parks is one set of such practices entailing an orientation to the environment which is such that nature is contrasted with culture. This ontological design encountered another, prevalent among southern Africans. Among other features, the different ontological designs assign different values and roles to religion and acquire diverse religious values and roles. The study particularly strives to assess the continuing interaction of different “nature” ontologies and their religious or anti-religious bases and effects and the associated visions of the future in and around the park. The history of the park from its inception to the end of the first two decades of the post-colonial era is well documented. However, there have been notable developments since then.