Today in esoteric Zambia history, I visited Chilubula Mission. I’m in Kasama this week hanging out (I guess nominally doing work and putting my life in order), and as part of my quest to see as much random Zambian history as possible (and keep adding places to Atlas Obscura) I decided to bike on over. The place is about 40km west of Kasama, so not impossible to get to by any means, but a hefty little bike ride.
Chilubula Mission’s claim to fame is being founded by Father Joseph Dupont, aka Moto Moto, the namesake of the Moto Moto Museum in Mbala. Joey there was a Catholic Missionary with the White Fathers and managed to be the first missionary, apparently, to get a toe-hold in the Bemba empire. Without judging one way or another the effects of missionary work on native peoples, he apparently did a lot to learn about Bemba tradition and culture. So in 1899 he managed to get permission to set up a mission in Chilubula and set about building the very nice and very large church in the photo above.
The mission itself these days is pretty amazing. Between there and Kasama there is not a whole lot. There’s gorgeous landscapes of the Zambian plains and a good number of homesteads dotted here and there, and even when you turn down the road to the mission there’s not a whole lot. Then suddenly you’re in this well-developed area with electricity and a very nice looking clinic and a Girl’s Secondary School and I was very pleasantly surprised. There is even a mini-mart with refrigerators and some good fritters that I stopped at on my way out.
It was easy to identify the church when arrived because like, it is big, so I got off my bike and wandered around. Out in front of the church I spotted the above marker, which claims to mark the spot where Father Dupont pitched his tent when he first arrived at Chilubula and presumably went about building the mission. I poked around a bit more and asked a passerby about the grave, and was pointed into the courtyard behind the church. There, wandering and looking lost, I eventually accosted an official-looking dude who was very nice and found me a guy with a key to the church to show me the grave, it being inside the church.
Father Dupont didn’t actually die anywhere near the mission, having left in 1911 apparently because he was a little imperious with discipline. He died and was originally buried in Tunisia, though apparently in 2000 they moved his remains and re-interred him in the above spot, just to the left of the sanctuary of the church. It’s a much nicer grave than some of the others I have seen. Besides their famous dead dude, the mission also apparently has some WWI history, having served as a refugee for people fleeing the fighting. So that is very nice indeed.
Having poked around the Mission successfully, I picked up some fritters and head out to complete the second half of my 80km round trip. I got very sunburned, stopped by a place claiming to have rock art, failed to find rock art (because I also failed to find the attendant), got stung by some insect with a very quick and nasty sting, and then eventually made some late lunch/early dinner. An average day.