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Sahr Yambasu (2000)

Sahr Yambasu

Sahr Yambasu

There is a story of a lady who was getting married. One of her best friends was unable to attend the wedding. So she sent a request to the Best man. It was to read for the bride verse 18 of chapter 4 of the First Letter of John at the reception. There was, however, a problem. The Best Man did not know that there was a First Letter of John in the Bible. So, at the reception, he read instead, the Gospel of John chapter 4 and verse 18 which reads: ‘The man you now have is not your husband’.
The moral of this story is simple but profound. Knowledge is very important. The Best Man did not know that there was a First Letter of John in the Bible.  Krio people in my country have a saying. It is this: ‘Know yusef nor to cos’. It loosely translates in English as follows: ‘To be told to know who you are is not an insult’. Our Krio people also have another saying about knowing. It is this. ‘If you nor know wusai you de go, know wusai you komot. It loosely translates in English as ‘If you do not know where you where you are going to know where you come from.’ Knowing is very important. Knowing self: knowing who you are; and knowing where you come from.
In October 2013 I published a book entitled, Between Africa and the West. The book is an attempt on my part at trying to know myself, where I come from, who I am and where I am going with my life. In the process of doing so I discovered, among many things, that it is an exercise that is not possible in isolation from knowing others. I discovered that it is other people and places that have and continue to reflect me to myself and make me see and know and understand who I truly am. Between Africa and the West is a story of how that was and is the case. It is a story of discovery that was in the writing for many years.

Somebody, who knows that I am a Christian and a Minister, asked me whether this was a religious book and I said ‘yes’ and ‘no’. ‘Yes’ because what I know and have experienced of Christ affects the way I see and read and relate to the world around me. But ‘no’, this book is NOT a Christian theological treatise. Like its author, this book can’t be described by neat labels. It is a book that can’t be put in a box. Here is a short except from a review, among many, of the book that I received: “When Brian told me it was very funny, I wondered what he was talking about in the first 100 pages.  There was no real humour there, just factual accounts of life in Sierra Leone, village and city. Then the fun bits started in the next session when you spoke of early experiences in Ireland and the cultural problems of integration here. The last third or so of the book is a deep reflection on life, and our place in it on the world stage….”

Between Africa and the West is not only a personal story, but a vista of universal human experiences. In it you will meet fear, sadness, despair and darkness face-to-face; you will also meet faith, hope, love and light; and you will meet grey areas that will invite you to stop, listen and reflect on the curious realities that define humanity. While its actual writing lasted for just over five years, it is also true to say that it has been many lifetimes in the writing in as much as it is also the story of my people, country and nation – my heritage.

But it is more than just that. It is also a story of other peoples, places and ideas I have encountered in my life journey in and outside of Sierra Leone. Born in a country which had already been colonized by Britain, I am one of the millions of Africans who could be truly described as having at least two heritages – African and Western; and much of this book is an examination of these heritages as they impact my life journey, challenging the values of each as I have come to understand and experience them.  In the book you will be drawn into the world of adventure my life has been. You will encounter what might seem like unusual – even alien perspectives on life and living. You will see how it is that every way of seeing and relating to the world – every way of talking about the world – is determined by the cultural lenses we wear. You will be given a glimpse of what it is like to involuntarily leave home forced by circumstances beyond one’s control. You will also encounter the terrifying reality of change – and change takes courage. You will understand how we can never truly be free, even though we kid ourselves into thinking that we are free people. You will discover what is wrong about how we often talk about ourselves vis-a-vis others.

My life has been a journey enabled by the love of others towards me. As a result my life has been filled with many wonderful and inspiring people. This book is as much a testament to them as anything else. Like many good adventure stories, it relays many experiences of heroes and heroines who have taught me how to live and let others live in this world. In this book your pre-conceptions of culture, civilization, development, progress, freedom and fulfilment will be challenged. So will any prejudices you may hold about people who are different from you.

If you find the challenges uncomfortable, blame Kimmage Development Studies Centre where, many years ago, I was given the tools for critical and reflective thinking. If, on the other hand, you are inspired and encouraged by what I share, bless my mentors in Kimmage Development Studies Centre. Since I left Kimmage,I have never taken any way of seeing and talking about life as the final word – not even Between Africa and the West.



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