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African Proverb of the Month

 June 2012


Nenye etedugbe enyetefagbe la anye gbowoha madu tetsro o. (Ewe)

 Ikiwa siku yakuvuna magimbi ingekua kama siku ya ku panda, basi hata mbuzi wasinge ruhusiwakula maganda. (Swahili)

Si le jour de récolte d’ignames serait  comme le jour de sasemence, même les chèvres  ne séraient pasautorisées à manger ses pelures. (French)

If the day of harvesting or eating yams is the same as the day of planting yams, even goats will not be allowed to eat the yam peels. (English)

 Ewe (Ghana,Benin,Nigeria and Togo)

Background,Explanation, History, Meaning and Everyday Use

Thesymbolic interpretation states that “If the day of joy, happiness orcelebration is the same as the day of suffering, nobody would like to sharetheir wealth with others.” This is a caution to people that they should puttheir sufferings aside when it comes to the time of joy and happiness. This isa message of forgiveness and sharing even with one’s enemies. This is also ahumble message to those who are well to do especially those who came from poorbackgrounds and become very wealthy later on in life. If they remember theirpoor backgrounds, they will not find it very difficult to share their wealthwith others.  Such people may reflect ontheir backgrounds to say that,”If the day of harvesting is the same asplanting, even goats will not be allowed to eat banana or yam peels.” This alsoassumes that suffering or struggle for a better life is usually endured throughindividual and communalinitiatives. Happiness and celebrations are communal includingeven one’s enemies.

TheEwe peoples of Ghana, Southern Togo, Benin and Nigeria are basicallysubsistent farmers and petty traders. They plant food crops such as yams, cocoayams (taro), cassava, maize, beans and cash crops such as cocoa, oil-palm andcoffee. Mixed cropping is often practiced with a variety of crops planted onthe same plot of land. They mature and get harvested at different times. Largeplantation farms are not common and the farm holdings per person hardly exceedfiveacres. Most of the farm labor is equally manual using very simple tools such asmachetes and hoes. The yam is one of the very few crops that are harvested witha grand celebration by the whole community. It is also one of the mostdifficult to cultivate and therefore is used as the metaphor for suffering aswell as for forgiveness during the festivals. This is also a period of reunionand family gatherings.


Biblical Parallels

“You have filled my heart with greaterjoy than when their grain and new wine abound”. (Psalm 4:7)

“I will be glad and rejoice in you; Iwill sing praise to your name. O most High”.(Psalm 9:2)

“The LORD is my strength and my shield;my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will givethanks to him in song”.( Psalm 28:7

“Loveyour enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. (Matthew 5:44)

"Love your enemies, do well to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27)



Contemporary Use andReligious Application

Due to changing conditions in many African societies from ruralagrarian populations into blue collar urbanites, this kind of proverb is wellplaced to educate people to be humble and not forget their humble backgroundseven when they become very successful people later on in life. They should bekind to others who may not be fortunate enough to benefit from the joys ofmodern life. They should have open minds and open hearts in sharing and helpingothers in need. This is also an appeal to the Christian and other religiousgroups to be tolerant of others in their business transactions and embrace allothers in their religious practices.



Textand Photographs 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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