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Site Last Update: 09 Dec, 2019

February, 2015 One will always return to an axe or hoe handle that the woman shows them. Bemba (Zambia and DRC) Proverb

  Umupini ukulangile umwanakashi kabwelelo (Bemba)
Sauti yaliyotolewa na mwanamke kuhusu jembe au shoka ina umuhimu yake. (Swahili)
La parole dite par la femme sur la houe ou sur la hache a toujours des impacts. (French)
One will always return to an axe or hoe handle that the woman shows them. (English)

Bemba (Zambia and DRC) Proverb

Background, Explanation, History, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Bemba people have always been a matrilineal society in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Meaning: the lineage is read from the side of the woman. Women had a very important position in the Bemba culture. They had a role in decision making, even in as far as the choosing of the chiefs was concerned. But with time the culture took the patrilineal character. Men became more and more dominant and women were excluded from decision making. Thus in particular a man, seen as the head of a marriage (home), mostly decides without considering the views of the wife (woman).In the Bemba societies, despite it being matrilineal, men always have taken a dominant part. Thus it is very common that men rarely and genuinely listen to their wives (women) in decisions making in their homes. Thus the advice of the wife (woman) is not always taken seriously. The men can decide as the like, they have the final say. Therefore behind this proverb lies an encouragement to the wisdom of listening to the views of others.

It means once a woman tells a man (husband) to consider taking or using a certain axe or hoe handle, it is good for the man to consider it. Women are very keen in knowing about household goods. Thus they might have observed that the axe or hoe handlehave a problem. But if a man ignores the advice or concern just because it is coming from the wife (a woman), he will surely realize later that it was true. He might go to the forest to cut wood and realize that the handle has a problem, and he will come back to the house to pick the handle he had refused to take.

Biblical Parallel
1 Kings 12:12-16:And they came, Jeroboam and all the people, to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had spoken, saying, Come back to me on the third day. And the king replied to the people harshly, and forsook the counsel of the elders which they advised him, and spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I shall add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, and I will surely chastise you with scorpions. And the king did not listen to the people, for the turn of events was from YAHWEH, in order to lift up His Word that YAHWEH spoke by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. And all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, and the people sent the king back word, saying, what portion do we have in David? Yea, there is no inheritance in the son of Jesse; to your tents, O Israel; now see to your house, O David! And Israel went to its tents.”

Contemporary Use and Religious Application
This African proverb is mostly used in cases of people who do not take time to consider the views of others, be it in marriage or in other circumstances. When it is observed that a person does things without considering what others are saying, this proverb is mostly used -- to remind people that they might later regret having ignored the advice.

Laur Mwepu
Nairobi, Kenya
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Cellphone: 0725-806611


Photographs selected by:

Cephas Yao Agbemenu 
Department of Art and Design
Kenyatta University
P.O. Box 43844
Nairobi, Kenya
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