Summary: USING BIBLICAL PARABLES TO CRAFT COMPELLING ACCOUNTS ACROSS CULTURES
USING BIBLICAL PARABLES TO CRAFT COMPELLING ACCOUNTS ACROSS CULTURES
Introduction - Everyone craves an experience when they can listen to an account that will make the illusion of anothers’ reality seem like their own. Africans particularly appreciate a teacher who can heighten their sense of reality by comparing extremes of emotion, truth, and actions of God and men.
African culture is keenly sensitive to the relationships between their physical realities and those of the supernatural - both good and evil. There is a genuine hunger in Africas’ young and old for connections between that which is real and that could be their ideal. To be able to close the gap between the real and the ideal is a continual struggle in all facets of African life. To provide that experience for students, families, or communities, a communicator needs to master the use of Biblical parables in crafting compelling accounts that transcend cultural barriers, many have tried, but few have mastered the art.
Since cultural realities have a way of shaping one’s values, we need to be sensitive to the various types of folktales in Africa. As you read the following Yoruba parable see if you can understand how this narrative of imagined events is used to illustrate moral and spiritual lessons. But also take special notice of how the writer chooses African situations to solve problems that are central to the key values of the people. Examine how the author of the folktale dramatically portrays the struggles of all the players. See if you can pick out the major themes, assumptions, and perspectives of the story. It is taken from Bakare Gbadamosi’s "A Wise Man Solves His Own Problems," O.R. Dathorne’ Africa in Prose, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969):
Case Study - "In the older days there lived a man Alatishe. He had huge money and many wives. The first wife had borne him three children. The rest were yet childless. One day Alatishe’s eyes began to pain him, and he began to spend money to cure his eyes, but all was in vain and he became blind.
Then a second misfortune befell him that brought even greater sadness than the first. He became impotent and lost the privilege of sleeping with his wives. He ran from one herbalist to another, who told him lies and robbed him of much money. Still he continued, thinking, a man who refuses to buy lies will never buy a truth. When his money came to an end, all his wives left him except for the senior wife and the junior one. The senior wife thought in her stomach, ’Now only my children will remain to divide Alatishe’s land after his death. But the junior wife loved him and wept with him for his sorrows.
One day Alatishe was sitting in front of his house when a wood pigeon flew into his lap, panting and frightened, "My blind father," it said, ’Do not suffer me to die a hot death. Save me from the hawk that pursues me. If you help me, I will open your eyes again." Immediately Alatishe hid the bird in his robes.
Then the hawk appeared. "I am dying of hunger," he said, "If you give me the pigeon I shall give you great power to sleep with your wives again."
Alatishe was confused. Was it good to have many children but never see them? Or to see his beautiful young wife but not be able to enter her?
Then he called his senior wife and asked her advice. Immediately she answered, "You must save the pigeon. It is not good to walk in darkness. Your children shall bear you children and that is enough. You shall have eyes to see them. If your power returned you would lost it in growing old. Let the hawk find other food. Save the pigeon from the bitterness of death."
This did not satisfy Alatishe, so he called for his junior wife. She said, "I beg of you, my husband, give up the pigeon and regain your power with a woman. I want to bear you children. And what is the sun, moon, and stars to you compared to sons and daughters?"
Alatishe hung his head like a banana leaf thinking of the different advice from his two wives. He said to himself, "I, Alatishe, must solve my own problem." Then wisdom entered his head. He sent his young wife to buy another pigeon and hid it under his cloak. Then he said to the hawk, "If I satisfy your hunger with a pigeon will you fulfill your promise?" "Yes," cried the hawk, and pounced instantly on the offered bird. Alatishe, to his delight, felt his blunt knife grow sharp again. Then he freed the first pigeon and regained his sight. When all his wives heard that he had regained his sight and strength they returned and bore him many children.