Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964623 | Print ISBN: 9781412936361 | Online ISBN: 9781412964623| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The sacred and divine office of king in both classical and traditional African society was and continues to be the most integral cultural, religious, and political institution defining the heart of African civilization. Kings function as conduits between the sacred cosmos of ancestors and spiritual entities and the mundane affairs of everyday human activities. Historically and in many African societies, kings serve as both of head of “state” and head of “church.” Alternatively stated, the role of kingship in African culture fulfills at least four fundamental purposes: leader and arbitrator for family, clan, and nation; ritual specialist and mediator for the spirit world and living community; guardian of cultural legacy and traditions; and upholder and defender of social propriety and justice. Subsequently, kings serve their constituents by representing their traditions, culture, and aspirations as a divine and ethical imperative, and, conversely, they serve the divine through their capacity as high ...