James Mata Dwane (1848 - 1916)
The Order of the Baobab in
Profile of James Mata Dwane
James Mata Dwane, a member of the Amantinde Tribe of the Xhosa, was born in Debe Nek near King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape in 1848. At the mere age of 19, he decided to start a school in a nearby village and enrolled 60 learners whom he taught all he had learned. He then left for further education and formal teacher training at Healdtown Methodist Missionary Institution where he later served as a teacher. During this time, he became painfully aware of the difference in quality between white and black education.
He wanted to establish his dream school for trade and productive skills for Africans at Cala and went to raise money in England for the project. His vision was dashed when the Methodist Church would not let the money he had raised be used for this purpose, but rather insisted that the money be paid into the general fund.
Disillusioned, he left the Methodist Church at the end of 1895, and joined John Tengo Jabavu’s newspaper in King William’s Town, Imvo Zabantsundu (Black Opinion), as co-editor, hoping to advance his education vision through his column.
He later joined up with the creation of the indigenous Ethiopian Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, thereby formalising a permanent relationship between the aspirations and spiritual nurture of Africans and African Americans. Dwane remained in the Ethopian Church and again established an institutional relationship between the indigenous African Church and the Anglican Church, which remains in existence today, thereby creating a worldwide relationship for the indigenous church.
Dwane died in 1916. He is remembered also for his passion for the education of Africans for which he sought institutional systems; first in the rudimentary village school he established as a youth, and throughout his life as a church leader.
Finally, Dwane is remembered for his vision of an indigenous African church that could have all that is considered necessary in world standards for church validity in the Apostolic lineage and succession; while embracing its African roots.