In memoriam: Ezekiel Alembi (12.12.1960-17.01.2010).

Author:Gunnell, Terry
Position:In memoriam

On 17th January 2010, I received the news that my good friend and Kenyan "brother" Ezekiel Alembi had died of a stroke at his home in Nairobi at the tender age of 49. The news came as a great shock to all of us who had come to know him over the years as a friend and fellow folklorist, not only because of the sudden loss to African folklore studies (and folklore and ethnology in general), but more particularly for Ezekiel's extended family in Nairobi and Bunyore, Kenya, and the countless students of all ages (at home and abroad) who had benefited from his teaching and positive encouragement over the years.

The story of Ezekiel's education is an example in itself, and no small achievement. Starting out in 1971 in the local Ziwani primary school in the Vihiga region, in the countryside of Bunyore, in western Kenya, Ezekiel went on to graduate from Ebwirany school in Kakamega, before taking his secondary education in the Kakamega and Kangaru Embu high schools in the same area. His university education in literature and English language then took place in Kenyatta University, Nairobi, where, in 1991, he wrote his MA thesis on local children's songs. Soon after this, Ezekiel began teaching at the same university (in the fields of literature, drama and folklore), and in 1995 became a member of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research, taking a regular and active part in the society's congresses (he became a representative on the ISFNR board in 2008, later going on to serve for more than ten years as the ISFNR Vice-President representing Africa). Participation in these conferences brought him into contact with fellow academics in Europe and America, and especially those from Estonia and Finland where he first took part in one of the Folklore Fellows Summer Schools in Lammi in 1997. This brought him into close contact with Prof. Lauri Harvilahti at the University of Helsinki. Lauri became a close friend and mentor, supervising Ezekiel's Ph.D thesis at the same university, "The Construction of the Abanyole Perceptions on Death through Oral Funeral Poetry" (2002), which dealt with Abanyole death culture in Ezekiel's home area of Bunyore (see hum/kultt/vk/alembi/).

Typically, Ezekiel felt it necessary not only to add a summary to the thesis in the locallanguage of the people he was writing about, but also to defend the thesis for a second time orally in front of the local people of Bunyore, an outdoor...

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