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Site Last Update: 13 Dec, 2017
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African Proverb of the Month
July, 2000

Utizunduka chimba limi litinagwa. (Sukuma)
Usimtukane kiongozi wa uwindaji jua halijatua. (Swahili)
Do not insult the hunting guide before the sun has set. (English)

Sukuma (Tanzania )

Explanation and Everyday Use

According to the Sukuma people in Tanzania when a person hears that there is wild game (wild animals) in a particular area and wishes to hunt there, the person will often hire a guide from the local people. If one is good, the guide will know exactly where the game is likely to stay. But sometimes the animals are not in their local haunts. Then the guide and the hunter will need to spend many, many hours walking though the bush in the hot sun. After a while both people will become frustrated and it is possible that the hunter will blame the guide for not spotting the wild game. The hunter might feel that he or she has wasted the whole day and wishes to insult the guide. This is when the Sukuma proverb applies. Very often at twilight just when it is getting dark, antelope and other animals will come out into the open to graze. If so, the hunter shoots the wild game and all go home happy. The proverb emphasizes the importance of being patient and holding back one's anger until the very end. One should hope in and trust any kind of guide, mentor or advisor until the day is completely over.

Biblical Parallels

The example of an older person in the Bible who still contributes a great deal is Simeon in Chapter Two of Luke's Gospel. He was a very old man at the end of his life. But he composes a prayer:

"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32)

This prayer has been popular with religious people for two thousand years throughout the world. The Holy Spirit, the hunting guide, gave Simeon desire before his sunset.

Another scriptural parallel to this Sukuma proverb is the "Story of the Good Thief on the Cross." "Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus replied, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise'" (Luke 23:42-43). Thus Jesus saves him at the last minute.

Religious Use

Christians would like to accomplish many good works for the sake of the Lord. As one grows older one has less vision, drive and ability to do things. That person can become discouraged and feel frustrated that he or she is just wasting his or her life. But it is good to remember that the Holy Spirit is the hunting guide. The Christian follows this Spirit for a lifetime. Even though one is in the twilight years a person can accomplish a great deal. Older people still have a lot to contribute.

NOTE: For further information on Sukuma proverbs, sayings and stories see: Joseph Healey and Donald Sybertz. Towards An African Narrative Theology (Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 3rd Reprint, 2000 and Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2nd Edition, 1999).


Rev. George C. Cotter, M.M.
Galilee Oromo Research Center
P.O. Box 147
Debre Zeit, Ethiopia


Rev. Donald Sybertz, M.M.
Shinyanga, Tanzania

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