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BUKUMBI AND KIGONGO: HISTORY OF MISSIONARIES AND SUKUMA CHIEFS

 
 

To reach Bukumbi about 30 kilometers from the city center, one follows the Shinyanga main road up to the Usagara roundabout. There one turns to the right in the direction of the Kigongo Ferry. After the road sign for Bukumbi, one leaves the tarmac road to the left and passes Bukumbi Hospital. Just behind the Nurses Training Center, one can climb up enormous rocks on the left, pass through a natural stone bridge and reach the rock summit with a wonderful view over Bukumbi and the lake. Continuing along the road one passes the old Convent of the Missionaries Sisters who arrived here in 1911. Now the Kilimanjaro Sisters live here and run the hospital. Next is the first mission in the southern part of Lake Victoria started by the Missionaries of Africa [White Fathers] in 1883, when four French missionaries arrived, retreating from their work in Uganda. In a Memorial Chapel one can see their portraits and the one of Chief Kiganga who received them. In 1884, one of the four, Father Leon Livinhac, became the first Bishop of the vast mission territory of Nyanza which reached up to Uganda. Here at Bukumbi in a former chapel next to the Memorial Chapel, Bishop Livinhac consecrated in 1890 Father Hirth as his successor. In turn Bishop Hirth consecrated here in 1894 the first Bishop of Ushirombo [Tabora], Bishop Gerboin, and afterwards Father Streicher as Bishop of Uganda in 1897.

In 1898 the large Mission Church was built in the shape it still has now. In 1950s after a fire it was rebuilt and covered with iron sheets on the roof. In the 1960s the mud brick walls were replaced with cement blocks. Inside the church are again the paintings of the four Bishops who are connected with the “Mother Mission” of Lake Victoria. In front on the left is a wooden statute of Saint Mary in African style carrying the child Jesus on her back.

Bukumbi 2One can get the keys of the Memorial Chapel and the Mission Church  from the priests or the Sisters. Inside the courtyard of the Fathers’ House are six graves of early missionaries, all of whom had died while still young. The German Augustin Schynse, one of those buried here,  had been a missionary and explorer in the Congo before he worked and died in Bukumbi.

With the help of a guide one can climb up the rocks near the Mission. The rocks have fantastic shapes  and lead up to the cross on the summit. It takes about half an hour to reach the summit. The path is decorated with paintings of the Stations of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.   

From the Mission one takes the straight road north to the tarmac road, turning left to Kigongo. After two kilometers the road on the left leads to the Bukumbi Chief’s Residence of Kigongo. The present house was built by the mother of Chief Charles Kaphipa who lives at his other residence at  Idetemya near Usagala. Near to the house one can see the boundary of the former residence of Chief Kiganga who in 1883 received the first missionaries. He allowed them to live  for some months close to his house before they moved to the present plot of the Mission.

Members of the chief’s family will show visitors the graves of the chiefs and their wives, a memorial inscription for the first missionaries, an unidentified pre-historical rock painting, the rock for meetings of the Chief’s Council and the place for the execution of death sentences. One also sees some old trees and enjoy  a fine view over Lake Victoria. Perhaps you might be able to see fishermen busy at the former harbor of Kigongo which one also could visit for a closer look.

Before returning to Mwanza, one can pay a visit to the Ferry Landing where there are restaurants and bars for a rest. On the other side of the bay is Busisi with a road to Geita and Bukoba. A ride on the  ferry is fast [25 minutes] and cheap. (Fr. George Pelz)

 

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