Blimba.

In a chapter on African football/soccer, David Goldblatt’s The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer has this sentence: “Muti, ju-ju, m’pungu, blimba are just some of the many words in African languages for the complex of beliefs that are held in the supernatural, in the animist realm of the spirit and in practices of witchcraft, magic and divination.” The only one of these terms I was familiar with was juju (as it’s spelled in the US), “a fetish, charm, or amulet of West African peoples,” which is probably from a source related to Hausa jūjū ‘fetish, evil spirit’ (though the OED entry, from 1901, says “generally thought to be < French joujou toy, plaything”). Muti, it turns out, is familiar enough in the English of southern Africa to have its own OED entry; its meaning is very similar, and it’s from Zulu umuthi ‘tree, plant; medicine, medicinal charm’ (umu-, singular noun prefix + -thi ‘tree’). Mpungu, according to this site, is “a KiKongo word that refers to power generated by something.” But I can’t find anything about blimba. I’ve tried “balimba,” “bulimba,” and “bilimba” (since the book has its fair share of typos), but no luck. So I thought I’d turn to the Varied Reader: any of you have any idea what he’s referring to?

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    I suspect a misprint or a misreading, not picked up by any proofreading on account of the obscurity. Not many West African languages (at any rate) even permit initial consonant clusters in native words.

    “Bumba” maybe?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mbombo

  2. David Eddyshaw says:

    Goldblatt’s book may be a shining exception, but I get annoyed by accounts of “African culture” which happily lump the vastly different cultures of that continent all together and witter about “animism” and the like as if it was all the same. It’s on a level with conflating Hinduism and Christianity in terms of accuracy, on the grounds that gods figure in both.

    Reminds me of one time when I was in the Burkina Faso embassy in Accra, and the official I was talking to was interrupted by a telephone call, which he dealt with briefly but politely, saying he couldn’t really help. When the call ended he burst into laughter and told me it was a woman calling from Quebec who was asking for the African Embassy.

  3. David Eddyshaw says:

    I feel I ought to share with you the definition of jùju from Paul and Roxana Ma Newman’s Hausa-English dictionary:

    1. fetish, spirit
    2. slightly daft person

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if the Hausa word is borrowed from English, rather than vice versa. Hausa, like English, is a magpie language; moreover most Hausawa are Muslim, though the old spirit possesion cult “bori” is still around, and the god of Kano, Tsumburbura, is still probably there on his hill …

  4. I suspect a misprint or a misreading, not picked up by any proofreading on account of the obscurity.

    As did (and do) I.

    “Bumba” maybe?

    Aha, very possibly!

    I get annoyed by accounts of “African culture” which happily lump the vastly different cultures of that continent all together and witter about “animism” and the like as if it was all the same.

    Yeah, me too, and the sentence annoyed me for that reason, but in general he writes well and discerningly about the very different countries and cultures of the continent, so I give him a provisional pass.

  5. Theism lumps together Hinduism and Christianity and is not completely devoid of meaning.

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