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September 2014 Why do you behave like a woman whose son has just gotten married? Maasai (Kenya, Tanzania) Proverb

  Ainyoo pee iton enaa enkitok nayamishe? (Maasai)
Kwa nini unakaa kama mwanamke ambaye mwanaye ameoa karibuni? (Swahili)
Pourquoi vous comportez-vous comme une femme dont le fils vient d'épouser? (French)
Why do you behave like a woman whose son has just gotten married? (English)

Maasai (Kenya, Tanzania) Proverb

Background, Explanation, History, Meaning and Everyday Use


Among the Maasai people who live in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania, newly married men live in their father’s homestead for some time before they settle in their own homesteads. This provides an opportunity for the newly married couple, especially the newly married woman, to interact with her in-laws. For the woman whose son has just married, this is an opportunity to be assisted by her daughter-in-law on various chores within the homestead. The mother-in-law therefore gets an opportunity to sit, relax and rest as her daughter-in-law works on various chores. Among the Maasai, a proverb posed in the form of a question warns people against something -- an attitude, behavior, a character trait and so on. In this context, this proverb warns people against behaving like that woman whose son has just married that makes her avoid her obligations and responsibilities in her jurisdiction (homestead). At no time should people especially in the family neglect their roles. They should instead value the dignity in work and working hard. Indeed, in the Maasai community context, the woman whose son has recently married should turn the logic of the behavior and the attitude warned against by the proverb on its head and work hard to use the occasion of her son’s marriage to teach and mentor her daughter-in-law on homemaking for the good of her future family. The proverb thus points to the importance of the family emphasizing the value of work for its own good and the good of the wider society.


Biblical Parallels

The Bible is replete with examples that emphasize the value of work and the dignity in working for our own good as well as for the good of others (read family). A few examples are illustrative and point to the reward of work to individuals, families and improving our relations with God: 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a person will not work, he or she shall not eat.” Ephesians 6:7-8 says: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord not human beings because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he or she does, whether he or she is a slave or free.”

 

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

The proverb has very good relevance today. It can be used to urge people to avoid the “we-have-arrived” attitude when circumstances presents themselves. At all times people should devote their work and energies to please ourselves, our families, the society and our God. The African proverbs can be used by religious people to teach the dignity of work in our lives. Out attitude towards work should be that we work as a service to Christ. That even though we serve our society and earthly masters (members of our homesteads as suggested by the proverb) we must also recognize our real accountability is to God as Colossians 3:22 points out.



Note
: This proverb is No. 1 in the booklet [105] Maasai Proverbs Collected from Social Media Forums. Some of these forums are Facebook and Twitter.

 

Joseph Kariuki
P.O. Box 10097-00200
Nairobi, Kenya
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Photographs selected by:

Cephas Yao Agbemenu 
Department of Art and Design
Kenyatta University
P.O. Box 43844
Nairobi, Kenya
Cellphone: 254-723-307992
Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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