Stefani Twyford is a video biographer in Houston, and she is also a wonderful writer and thinker. I just rediscovered her blog post about an African proverb, and it haunts me a little bit:
…The proverb recognizes two spirits. Sasha are spirits known by someone still alive, while Zamani are spirits not known by someone currently alive. According to James Loewen in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me, “The recently departed whose time overlapped with people still here are the Sasha, the living dead. They are not wholly dead, for they live on in the memories of the living. When the last person knowing an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the Sasha for the Zamani, the dead.”
Walsh’s use of the proverb was in illustrating the power of oral and personal history. As a Personal Historian, I spend a lot of time educating people on the power and value of leaving your story for future generations. As long as people are alive and can pass your stories on to future generations, you will retain some degree of immortality. But like the game Telephone, each iteration of the story becomes less and less reliable and more anecdotal until what is left after a few generations is, if you are lucky, merely a name on a genealogical chart and some mention of characteristics… Read the rest
“When the last person knowing an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the Sasha for the Zamani, the dead.” Wow. It’s a powerful way of thinking. And it does make you think about keeping track of your family stories. Ask about them, and then write them down!