Legio Maria

Legio Maria

Contributor: Elizabeth Chege

Legio Maria (Latin for ‘Legion of Mary’), is a series of photographs by Andre Epstein. This set of photographs portrays the followers of a Legio Maria church located in Kibera, Nairobi.

The Legio Maria church represents the continuation of a Luo community response to Christianity seen in its colonial form, and the control exercised by European missionaries on Christian communities in western Kenya. Legio Maria is a new religious movement and African independent church. The doctrine follows the central message of Christianity, and specifically in the central role of Mary as ‘queen’, ‘mother’ and the ‘mediatrix’. However, beliefs concerning the interaction between the world of the spirits and that of living human beings differs slightly from mainstream Catholic beliefs.

It was founded in the 196os by Simeo Ondeto (died 1992), a catechist (religious teacher), and Gaundencia Aoko. Both claimed to have undergone prophetic experiences that invested them with divine authority and directed them to reject traditional magic and divine healers. Excommunicated for this, Ondeto and Aoko formed a new all-African church that offered free healing by prayer and the exorcism of evil spirits. With the departure of Aoko the movement has declined in strength. However, it remains the largest African church to have emerged from a Roman Catholic background.