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Site Last Update: 09 Dec, 2019

November, 2016 A greedy man always has his eye on his wife’s pot. Kele (Democratic Republic of Congo) Proverb

  Botolome ya bokokota baiso ko ndaengo. (Kele)
Mwanaume mwenye tamaa jicho lake huwa katika sufuria. (Swahili)
Un glouton a toujours l’œil dans la casserole de sa femme. (French)
A greedy man always has his eye on his wife’s pot. (English)

Kele (Democratic Republic of Congo) Proverb

 Background, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Kele people (or Lokele) are a Bantu Ethnic Group of about 160,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are located in the Province Orientale also called Haut-Congo. They mainly live on the south bank of the Congo-River between Kisangani and Isangi, between the mouths of the Lindi and the Lomami Rivers where some villages extend up the Lomami River for considerable distance.

Thus, their history of slavery from Tippu Tipp and Batambatamba who took their wives and daughters as concubines, the Kele people became sighted people still living on the lookout for prompt attack; so, they had to be cautious and careful of their wives and daughters; and that attitude changed them in selfish and clairvoyant people. Traders, men had to live for many days and months selling fish for the products of the forest they needed. Thus, they had to be absent from their families. However lazy, envious, jealous and selfish persons couldn’t leave their families for such opportunities. So, when you don’t leave yours for opportunities far from you, they always say botolome ya bokokoto which literally means “a greedy man.” The meaning of this Kele proverb: A man who does not want to leave his family for other opportunities is believed to be greedy.

The Kele people used drum language for rapid communication between villages. Each village had an expert drummer, and all villagers could understand the drum language.
The origin of the Kele’s largely successful encounter with Belgian imperialism lie at the end of the nineteenth century. As Rose-Hunt explained, BMS missionaries such as George Grenfell stumbled into a complicated world when they established an out-station in Yakusu in 1895. Swahili slavers from Eastern Africa, known locally as “Ba Tambatamba”, and Tippu Tip in particular, had emerged as an important political force in Lokeleland. These slavers often established profitable alliances with Lokele big-men undergirded by marriage. Consequently, a number of Lokele girls were sold and became concubines for the Ba Tambatamba (Rose-Hunt 1999:39). Moreover, many Lokele, male and female, were required to work as slaves on Swahili-owned plantations. Lokele girls found themselves orphaned when Swahili slavers from Zanzibar and Tanzania ransacked their villages.

In Kisangani it appears that ethnic groups that achieved a favorable position in the colonial period have retained it to the present day. The most prominent group in the city, the Lokele, were traders and fishermen in the pre-colonial times, travelling long distances up and down the Congo-River, exchanging fish for the products of the forest people and establishing small colonies. Since the river was a route for penetration by colonizers and missionaries, the Lokele were able to benefit from the setting up the first schools in their river villages and also from serving as intermediaries in trade between Belgians and the people inland in the forest.

Biblical Parallels

“But a certain man named Khananyah, with his wife Sapphira, sold a property, and kept back from the price, his wife also aware of it, and bringing a certain part, he put it at the feet of the apostles” (Acts 5 :1-2).

And Nabal answered David's servants and said, “Who is David, and who the son of Jesse? The servants have multiplied today who have broken away from his master. And shall I take my bread, and my water, and my meat which I have killed for my shearers, and give to men whom I have not known, from where they are” (1 Samuel 25:10-11).

“And it happened at evening time; David rose up from his bed and walked up and down on the roof of the king's house. And he saw from the roof a woman bathing. And the woman was very good of form. And David sent and asked about the woman. And one said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ And David sent messengers and took her. And she came to him, and he lay with her. And she purified herself from uncleanness, and she returned to her house” (2 Samuel 11:2-4).

“And Yahshua being in Bethany, in Simon the potter's house, a woman came to Him having an alabaster vial of ointment, very precious. And she poured it on His head as He reclined. But seeing, His disciples were indignant, saying, ‘For what is this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for much and be given to the poor’” (Matthew 26 :6-9).

“And as He was yet speaking, behold, Judas the traitor came, one of the Twelve. And with him was a numerous crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. And the traitor gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I may kiss, it is He; seize Him.’ And coming up at once to Yahshua, he said, ‘Hail, Rabbi.’ And he ardently kissed Him” (Matthew 26:47-49).

“And she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has turned back to her people, and to her gods. You turn back after your sister-in-law.’ And Ruth said, ‘Do not beg me to leave you, to turn back from following you. For where you go, I will go. And where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your Elohim my Elohim. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May YAHWEH do to me, and more so, if anything but death do us part’” (Ruth 1:15-17).

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

Many African people have problems including selfishness, envy and jealousy, corruption, tribalism, despotism, favoritism, dictatorship. These problems make people attached on things of this world that bring us enmity among people of the same nation. When someone is greedy he can often get to eat even what belongs to the neighbor. That strife and war will follow. Eventually the community becomes unbearable because of the selfish, corrupt community leaders, and the moral values of people become corrupt and degrading. No way to achieve any development with selfish leaders, envious and greedy. Corruption, selfishness, jealous are vices that destroy an organized community and let it down beginning of chaos, troubles and further, war and destruction.

A number of Lokele girls were sold and became concubines for the Ba Tambatamba. What you leave behind you does not belong to you, it belongs to another one who is sometime stronger than you. Someone who is jealous of what you possess becomes your opponent, your silent enemy and is able to hurt you, to kill you because of pride. Let us see the example David the King who envied Uriah’s wife. The consequence of these envy and selfishness was to murder Uriah.

The selfishness of Ananias with his eye in his wife’s pot was not to tell the truth and to hide a portion of money when they sold their property. The selfishness of Judah Iscariot in the betrayal of his Lord. Absalom and his father David. Nabal who refused to support David.

This tells us that there is a consequence to those who are selfish, jealous, envious, corrupt. If people are unable to make them pay the inflicted burden, God will bring the solution to such persons one day. But in the case of Naomi, the envy of following her mother-in-law is positive; it comes to solve a problem of sharing sorrows and happiness together. This shows unity and obedience to her mother-in-law.


Placide Hondi Muhimanyi
Nairobi, Kenya
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Photographs provided by:

Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Fine Arts
Kenyatta University
P.O. Box 43844
Nairobi, Kenya
Cellphone: +254 723-307992
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