Short Portrait: Bruno Gutmann

Bruno Gutmann
Bruno Gutmann

Bruno Gutmann was born in Dresden in 1876. He comes from a family of farmers and landholders. After the death of his mother in 1882, Gutmann grew up with his grandparents. Moreover, he became member of the YMCA in Dresden. Between 1895 and 1901 he studied in Leipzig, preparing for his theological examination and his mission work abroad. Wilhelm Wundt and Karl Grau were among his teachers.

In 1902 Gutmann had passed his theological examination and took up a one-year vicarage in Bavaria. Eventually he was sent to Eastern Africa to do service there. During the following years he lived both at the eastern and western slopes of the Kilimanjaro mountain. Among the Chaga people Gutmann began to do research not only about their social structure but also on their cosmological and religious beliefs. Moreover, he started to learn their language.

Due to health problems Gutmann came back to Germany in 1908, where he published his work about the Chaga. Gutmann eventually returned to Africa and became head of a missionary station near Masama. He continuously published books about the Chaga culture, for example a collection of their fables and fairy tales as well as a book on their law system.

Due to the Treaty of Versailles Gutmann had to return to Germany in 1920. After living in Berlin for some time he resettled in a franconian village, where he kept working on his scientific material. In 1924 the Theological Faculty of the University of Erlangen awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Theology. Two years later the University of Würzburg granted him the Doctorate of Law.

Gutmann was able to return to his missionary in Eastern Africa, where he lived and worked until 1938. The same year he presented a translation of the New Testament in Chaga language.

Bruno Gutmann died in Ehingen in 1966.

(text written by Vincenz Kokot 2011; photo source: