Shembe, Isaiah

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Photocopies of three manuscript notebooks containing chronicles of the Nazarite Church, written c1932, ranging from accounts of miraculous events to the day to day life of the Church in Inanda, letters to dissident priests and accounts of church finances.

Administrative / Biographical History

Isaiah Shembe, the founder of the Nazarite Church, was born in the Free State, South Africa in c. 1867. His family were probably labour tenants on land near Harrismith. He appears to have attended services in a Wesleyan Church but later came under the influence of William Leshega of the African Baptist Church. He was baptised into this Church in 1906 and was ordained shortly afterwards. He rapidly built up a reputation as a preacher and healer and established his own church in Durban in 1910. This became the largest independent African church amongst the Zulu people. Many of his sayings were written down in Zulu and a number have been translated into English. Isaiah Shembe died in 1935. For further information see Elizabeth Gunner The man of heaven and the beautiful ones of God Brill: Leiden, 2002.

Conditions Governing Access


Acquisition Information

Presented by Dr Elizabeth Gunner in 1986.

Other Finding Aids

This description constitutes the only finding aid at present.

Archivist's Note

This description originally prepared for the RSLP AIM25 Project and revised and updated by Rosemary Seton, Archivist, SOAS.

Conditions Governing Use

No publication without prior written permission. Apply to SOAS Archives in first instance.

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds a file containing photocopies of correspondence of Londa N Shembe (Isaiah Shembe's son) with Professor Bengt Sundkler, 1975 (Ref: MS 249203), and a typescript of the Rev John Langaliba Dube's 'Shembe - a Biography', translated into English by M Yengwa, 1976 (Ref: MS 380082).

Personal Names