Guide Journey to Alternity: Transpersonal Healing Through Stories and Metaphors

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I knew nothing of it.

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But my father was with her till the end. On the last day of the fast month-it was a Friday-my father went to pray. The women had already cooked rice for the prayer-day. On his way to the prayer-ground selikenema , he began to tremble.

The Muslims were already at their prayers, sitting in rows. At that time my younger brother Bile was still alive. He went and supported my father and said, "Father, you cannot go and pray, you are trembling. Let us go back home. The prayers ceased. But he died that day. It was a terrible thing. From Friday, through Saturday, until Sunday no one could bury him because his death had been so sudden and strange.

He was told of his brother's death as he was on his way back home. He told the District Commissioner what had happened. The D. Everyone was crying. They were crying for me because I was the eldest son. I had gone to my elder sister to tell her of our grandmother's death, and my mother had died. Then, on the last day of the same month, my father had died. Both of them had died while I was away. It was a terrible thing, a strange thing.

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They said, "Ferenke has not come yet, Ferenke has not come yet, Ferenke has not come yet, Ferenke has not come yet. My heart was beating loudly, loudly, loudly, loudly. Then I said, "Let me go home. From Tongoma, as far as Diang Sukurela, I heard nothing of the deaths.


They kept the news from me. No one I met told me anything about the deaths. I arrived home and suddenly found myself in the middle of the funeral rites.

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There was nothing I could do. W hat Allah had destined had happened. I knew that my father was the man who brought me into the world, but my elder father was the one who was now responsible for me. I knew he would take care of us. So I was not broken-hearted. I have found no fault with my elder father.

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He has found wives for me , and I now have my own children. He sends me on errands, but he has never wronged me. I do what I want. Indeed, I feel my father never died. Even had he lived, both he and I would have been in chief BaJa's hands. So my heart is at peace. That is how I was born. I have explained it all-my father's side and my mother's side.

I have explained it all to you. Some of it you will forget, some you will not forget. You asked me to tell you about my life. That is it.

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Keti Ferenke was about ten or eleven years old when his parents died. Thirty years later, recounting those traumatic events to me in 1 9 7 2 , his attitude seemed resigned, almost fatalistic. It was a characteristic Kuranko way of talking: one's luck in life depended upon external circumstances and innate dispositions; one's fate sawura was fixed. Yet this is only a partial view, more typical of how Kuranko explain things in retrospect than how they actually live.

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In conversation, Keti Ferenke often boasted to me of his intelligence. It was this faculty of insight and understanding hankilimaiye that enabled him to create and tell stories with such skill and verve.

Journey to Alternity: Transpersonal Healing Through Stories and Metaphors

However, in the Kuranko view one's moral worth is ultimately contingent upon the attitude one takes up toward such innate endowments, what one does with what one has. Thus, although Keti Ferenke attributes his creative genius and inspiration to Allah, he acknowledges that the development of the ideas he "receives" for stories is his responsibility, a matter of his own work.

The germinal idea, of how the power of life and death came to be in Allah's hands , not human hands, simply, as he put it, came into his head. Subsequently, working on his farm, lounging in his hammock at home , he tried to come up with a plausible and familiar situation that would realize the idea. To be sure , many elements in this story are derived from the traditional repertoire , and the structure , like the moral conclusions, are fairly conventional. But the composition of the story, like the performance of it, is a matter of individual j udgment, of self-conscious work.

Keti Ferenke alludes to it in this wry comment on his storytelling: "I could never stop thinking of stories, yet I could stop myself telling them. If I am asked to tell a story, I cannot stop thinking of one to tell, but I can stop myself telling it.


A kind of paradox arises here. Though the social order was created by Allah and the "first people" fol' morgonnu long ago , it is recapitulated only by dint of purposeful human activity in the here and now. At the same time that it is necessary to play up the vital role of each individual in the construction of social reality during initiation, for instance it is also necessary to play down that role lest the omnipotence of Allah and the ancestors be called into question. The very existence of the human subj ect as one who "stands out" or "emerges" must be eclipsed by a conception of the subject as one who is a part of, not apart from, the group.

Keti Ferenke resolves this paradox in three ways. First, though he is the author of his own stories he attributes their inspiration to a transcendent rather than a personal source. Second, he allows his stories to pass into tradition without any acknowledgment or commemoration of their origins in his experience as a singular individual. Third, in his stories he is careful to extol individual initiative and choice only in relation to communal values and conventional wisdom.

In these ways the stories become a kind of symbolic capital, a common fund, disguising their origins in personal experience and creative work. But the disguise Two Lives 31 often slips, as in Keti Ferenke's remarks revealing the dialectic between cultural forms and individual praxis: To start with, my great-great-grandfather was a chief. Down to my grandfather, they were all chiefs. Until my father, they were all chiefs. Now, when you are born into a ruling house you will be told many things. If you are a fool you'll be none the wiser, but if you are clever you will scrutinize everything.

And when you lie down, you will think over certain things. If you do this, it is good. This is how I think of things. Though it is only Allah that gives thought to a person. When you are told something, it is good if it stays in your mind. What I have to say about the stories is this: I only think of them. They j ust come into my mind, j ust like that. I am not asleep.