In the last decades a considerable number of studies have been published on the Asante/Akan spiritual world. The results can be somehow summarized in the following discourse: “The traditional Akan thought on man is that he is made up of okra, sunsum, ntoro
(Opoku 1978 p. 94).” While this view is now widely accepted not only in the field of research but also in contemporary school education in Ghana, it cannot be found in the village society where I have carried out my fieldwork.
The aim of this paper is to investigate Asante villagers' knowledge with respect to their concept of lives. For this purpose the concepts which are said to link their real world with their spiritual world have been taken under investigation: that is, sunsum and okra
I first visited Abankro —a village 3km north from Ejisu, a town located 20km east of Kumasi on the Accra Road (Kumasi is the second largest city in Ghana, of approximately one million people)—in November 1993 as a research student of University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. Living as a member of Mr. and Mrs. Prempeh's family, I carried out my research for a continuous period of 9 months.
The villager's narratives do not always show consistency and are wanting in their scientific or rationalistic basis. Accordingly they are often regarded as “incorrect” knowledge by the “educated” people and little attention has been given to the villager's vernacular discourse and knowledge.
Notwithstandingly, this paper would like to show that villagers' non-standardized contradictive narratives represent a clue to grasp imagination of local people that can create a flexible strategy in the actual lives.
First, the Akan/Asante Cosmology constructed by the Western knowledge—mainly dominated by literacy— is reviewed. The construction of Akan/Asante Cosmology can be seen through the “words refer game” and the sophistication applied by those modern disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and philosophy.
Second, the village people's narratives in regard to their cosmology are documented and the differences between the literal and narrated cosmology are considered. Although the same concepts (sunsum
) are employed, meanings and narratives differ between the people's narratives and the standardized cosmology. This can be found in the case of the manipulation of asram
disease which has affected a new-born baby: villagers believe this disease is caused by the evil person possessed by sunsum bone
Finally it is pointed out that Asante people attribute different meanings to sunsum, okra
: those alternations are caused by their imaginative ability to manage their lives flexibly and their way of thinking is opened to the imagination of others—nature, self, community and the other world.