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Site Last Update: 14 Dec, 2019
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African Proverb of the Month
March, 2006

Kukhuta kwa njiri, nkhumba nkhabe sekera bi. (Sena)
Se o javali ficar saciado, o porco nao fica satisfeito (Literal: A saciedade do javali, o porco nao se alegra). (Portuguese)
A warthog eating its fill does not delight a pig.(English)


Sena (Mozambique) Proverb

Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use

This proverb is No. 173 in the collection of 425 Sena Proverbs organized by Joseph Pampalk and published in the book Nzerumbawiri - Proverbios Sena (How To Enliven Community Development Making the Most of Oral Literature), Maputo: Paulinas, 2003. The Sena ethnical and linguistic group is located in the centre of Mozambique on the two banks of the Zambezi River, in the region of Sofala, Manica e Tete, and in Zambesia, namely between Chemba and Caia, including Mutarara, Doa, Tambara, and Chiramba. All together more than a million of people speak the Sena language today. This language became a common language of the majority of the people living in this area who were not necessarily born there. In fact many historical events, and especially the experience of colonialism with its system of compulsory work, caused a migration movement with consequences extending to the field of linguistic changes. In recent times, since the beginning of war for the independence of the country (1964-1975), this people firmly resisted injustices and domination of every kind and were able to contribute actively to the struggle and even heroically offering their lives for the independence of Mozambique (25 June, 1975).

This proverb condemns envy, putting it in ridicule in grotesque animals. In fact envy can appear without any logical reason or meaning, but may become the main obstacle to local and common development. It is not ignored that competition and envy have been many times at the roots of conflicts and suffering of groups and nations all over the world, in past and in recent times, and also in our Africa context, both in the urban areas as well in the countryside. Somebody trying to struggle for a better life even through honest work and difficult personal efforts may have this sad experience and find himself or herself the object of envy with very destructive consequences for him or her and for one's family. Sometimes this prevents people from becoming more creative both in personal and communitarian growth.

Biblical Parallels

Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew teaches us how to overcome envy, looking at people from the point of view of, and with the heart of God. In the parable where the Kingdom of God is compared to a vineyard the owner invites people to work at every time of the day and where the payment is the same for everybody. The answer of the owner to the one who complains about the generosity of the owner is:"My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?.... (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?"

In James chapter 3, verses 14-17 we read: "If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits." Once more we see that if we want to become truly human, free, and happy it is important to listen to the Word of God and also to the wisdom of our African ancestors that is expressed in very simple and impressive ways in the proverbs, stories, names, and other expressions of oral and traditional literature that we cannot ignore. Instead we are all called to appreciate these traditions and to value them as a great treasure and legacy for the present and future generations.

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

We are facing many problems in society today. Every day we meet and listen to people complaining about very poor governance. We read in the media about corruption, theft of money that was destined to serve the many and serious needs of the people, rigging of elections, and the killing of innocent people because of conflicts of interest among a few rich and selfish persons.

Envy and jealousy are always there to spoil our human relationships and to create a great insecurity in a world that is so abundantly furnished by God with every kind of goods for everybody and destined to become a place to enjoy life with a spirit of peace and justice, of true brotherhood through the love and total self giving of Jesus Christ. When will we finally understand and respond fully to that call?

Sister Maria De Carli, FSP
Paulines Publications Africa
P.O. Box 49026
00100 Nairobi GPO, Kenya

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