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Site Last Update: 09 Dec, 2019

December, 2016 No, the bull will never bellow when it sleeps; neither will the cockerel ever crow without clapping its wings. Gusii (Kenya) Proverb

  Yaya, e’eri  tiyana kwana marara, na twani tiyana kobuga eta’ageti chimba. (Gusii)
Fahari haiwezi kunguruma akilala wala jogoo hawezi kuwika bila kupiga mabawa yake. (Swahili)
La vache beugle jarnais quand elle dort, ni le coq ne chante sans bouger ses ailes. (French)
No, the bull will never bellow when it sleeps; neither will the cockerel ever crow without clapping its wings. (English)

Gusii (Kenya) Proverb

Background, Meaning and Everyday Use of the Proverb

The Abagusii community occupies the area of western Kenya in Nyanza province; they cover an area of 2,198kms. In the latest census of 2009 the community’s population is 2.5m. It is classified among the Bantu speaking peoples, and considered to be the sixth largest community in Kenya, with six major sub-clans, namely, the Kitutu being the largest clan, the both north, west and south Muggiano, Nyabari, Wanjare, Bobasi, and Machoge. All this sub-clans are unified with one language known as Ekegusii, the dialect of the sub-clans lay on pronunciation and names of items rather than the emphasis and value of the meaning.

The community traces their origin from Misiri – Egypt-- as a large group of Kintu whereby they continued to pathways with the Kikuyus, Kurias and Maragolis. It is said that it is the same group that evolved to form from the kikuyu where we trace Meru and Embu communities.
The community articulated philosophies of life that were communicated through riddles, folktales, songs, poems, and proverbs that were kept alive through oral transmission from generation to generation. Observing the cultural norms and values means pleasing God and the ancestors. The mythology of proverbs dominated the society and relinquished the capacity for choice and passive acceptance in the way of solving the needs and nature within the society. It helped them to move from a sense of fatalism to critical consciousness where one defined his actions and the way forward.
The community is organized on social ideals where by omogaka bwa’omochi’e is the head of a family, omotureti is the head of the village, omotongore is the head of the clan while omogambi is the head of the community. The community’s ethical philosophy was gathered from the natural signs and behavior of both animals and birds within their environment. The bellow of the bull and the crow of the cockerel is the given example of the ethical formula that the culture borrowed. There should be always ethical practice and ways of doing things. We shouldn’t have to wait for things to go wrong in order to seek correction. The egoism is described as a psychology of an individual use of sense, knowledge, action and responsibility. It is the popular life of clannism. To be branded as being moral or immoral it is the way one does things and how responsible he/she is over them. The things you do, and how you do, affect not only you, but others, that is the culture of clannism. The competition of clanism is relative and healthy in itself for the checks and balance of moral discipline within culture and its people. In philosophy we categories humans into three levels, those who love pleasure, those who love activity, and those who love wisdom, but in totality philosophy is the discipline of human knowledge with ultimate principle causes which include the idea of God.

Societies may be organized in many ways, for always people need liberty, power, and greater voices in representation where democracy is one method of organizing society when kept with the method of inquiry, but the tyranny of the majority may over-ride the coherence and workability of truth. Driving the idea that majority are agreeable with it, does not make the idea legitimate. Clanism philosophy is one of the legitimate methods that draw individual act to a challenge not only from its agreeable tyranny of majority but from its relative legitimate, the inquiry from majority is not only the method that justifies the action, it is the needs that justify the method, the community derived the idea of legitimate to their actions.


Biblical Parallels

The sign is one of the tools in society, and a simple way of sending messages wider than mere speech, if one knows how to interpret the signs, the better he/she stands to get the message, the signs reflect the inner feeling of human beings as compared to the mere words of the mouth which at most times deceives. The power of Jesus on the cross was never a sign enough to convince the Jews; they still demanded further signs, while the Greeks desired wisdom. We need the power of the cross to proclaim the crucified Jesus, not many rules and further directions; it is the power of the cross that drives the army back, not the many insult as a parrot that stays on the fence of a thorn tree passing insult to the enemy’s place, not the many insults that will arrest the war unless one takes a practical step that embraces the power of the cross. The many scandals, love of power, money and sex won’t drive any courage that will confront the enemy who has already crippled the societies, and the world, to design procedures and rules itself won’t make a different without the power of Jesus on the cross. 1 Corinthians 1: 20-28 and Daniel 3:41-42: now we follow you with our whole heart; we fear you and we pray to you.  Here I am not questioning the degree of God’s forgiveness, and how many times He forgives, but the credibility and genuineness of the process of both the penitents and the confessors, for it might be the outer sign of repeated exercise of a time, that never effect the inner change.

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

There should be ethical disciplines that observe cultural values which sustain the church; we shouldn’t have to wait things to go wrong in order to seek correction, we have to distinguish the unfortunate from the deliberate, the habit that is not in consistent with moral behavior of the community should be treated as foreign, negative and ignored. This 2016 Year of Mercy is not about the confession and the absolution of sins, but rather a moment of reconciliation and response of conscience to God’s call and His love on us. It is not whether we go to the confession box or not, but how do we live our lives in relation to God’s call. The sacrament of reconciliation is to those who live on openness’ to the snares of the world forces where the sacrament becomes the sharing and the encouragement to one another to face those challenges in strength and fidelity.

We should evaluate the methodology of evangelization whether it meets the people’s expectation and enables true conversion or we make the sacrament of reconciliation a mere yearly habitual routine during Easter and Advent where the long queue to confession-box, symbolize holiness. Lent should be a time to remind us our conversion, because it is a moment of initiating new members to the flock, otherwise if old members have not merited any degree of maturity and they too are seen making long queue to confession-box, then the new initiate fails to get persuaded to any sense of growth. The young rich boy who asked Jesus what he would do to inherit the kingdom, despite becoming sad to sell his riches and distribute to the poor, at least he had lived to a certain degree of maturity for being obedient to the Ten Commandments

Only Jesus’ appeal to the young rich boy was working to his perfection: Luke 18: 18-23. There is a different between hot and lukewarm. Let the church re-examine its methodology of evangelization whether it really empowers the Christians to stand the test of the time. Proverbs 15:16: Better a little with the fear of the Lord than greater treasure and trouble with it.


Evans Nyakundi
Hekima University College Library
Box 21643,
Nairobi, Kenya 00505
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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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