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Site Last Update: 15 Dec, 2019

December 2018 The tongue can bring big problems to the cheek. Joba (Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania) Proverb

Kamwa kashenmga tama. (Joba)
Ulimi waweza leta shida kubwa kwa shavu. (Swahili)
La langue peut causer beaucoup de problemes aux joues. (French)
The tongue can bring big problems to the cheek. (English)

Joba(Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania) Proverb

Background, Meaning and Everyday Use

The Bazoba people are located in the territory of Fizi (Baraka, peninsula of Ubwari and in the district of Uvira) in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo and have a population of 23,500. They are part of the Bantu, Central-Lakes people cluster. They are also found in Tanzania and Viiri is one among their alternative names. The global population of this ethnic group is 28,100. Their primary language is Joba.

The primary religion practiced by Joba people is Roman Catholicism, the world’s largest Christian branch. Their GSEC status is 1 that means this ethnic group is less than 2% evangelical. Some evangelical resources are available, but there has been no active church established among them in the past three years. Their most preferred religion is Islam, but today some of them are now becoming Christians.

Fishing is their main economic activity. It is their traditional way of living done by men, while women do cultivation of cassava, bananas, maize and beans. Culturally, the Joba ethnic Group lived in round house (huts) build of mud on the wall and thatched with grasses on the top. The work of building houses (huts) is traditionally done by men. Like the Kabwari people, Joba people also prefer ugali as their staple food. It is cooked from dried cassava.

Joba people celebrate a variety of ceremonies to mark cultural festivities and use proverbs at event such as birth, circumcision, marriage and death. The naming of a newborn was based on the ancestral lineage in honor of the dead and a very important person in the community (clan). Circumcision is a practice carried out to men only. Marriage is done with payment of the dowry of livestock to symbolize unity among the two families.

This proverb shows how much the Joba people value the unity of the community. For this reason, parents should take care of their children. Young men and women and show the consequences of the tongue in the family and in the society at large. That is why Jesus tells us about “the destruction brought about by power of speech.” Speech has power to destroy the entire society. This is shown in a metaphorical way by the photo of a raging forest fire and the worldwide saying A small match stick can start a big forest fire.


Biblical Parallels
“So, the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature and set on fire by hell” (James 3:5, 7)

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse men and women who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing my brother; this should not be” (James 3:9-10).


Contemporary Use and Religious Application

In our contemporary time many Christians around the world are unable to know what to expect from the speech said by some church leaders. Will they praise God and Father, or will they curse men and women who have been created in God’s image? Thus, they discourage people by continuing the division inside themselves. They poison the community by making people afraid to trust each other because they don’t know whether they will receive support from their relatives or not.

Joba people believe that no person can tame the tongue by his or her own effort especially within the community. He or she should be assisted by the elders of the community by teaching him or her how he/she should live with others. This shows how much they value the unity of the community. The particular concern of Joba people is hypocrisy and double-mindedness which is the source of conflict in the community.

As everybody knows it is not easy to control the tongue because it can be evil. Today people are calling themselves Christians, but they are not manifesting Christian lives. It is as a manifestation towards a divided desire -- good and evil -- of the double-minded person. And all this is because human beings are unable to control their tongues. Many troubles that the world is going through are caused by incitement from some leaders. It happened here in Kenya during the 2007-2008 Post-election Violence that was perpetuated by some Kenyans political leaders. The results of that violence was the death of thousands of people. Sometime people forget that a word said cannot go back into the mouth. A tongue can be one of the most harmful human organs in our bodies.

The advice from this Joba proverb is: “Keep silent, let others do most of the talking. Be a good listener because silence is golden.”

NOTE: This proverb is No. 31 in the list of a Collection of 100 Joba Proverbs by Angela Riziki, edited by Elias Bushiri Elie, in collaboration with African Proverbs Working Group, Nairobi, Kenya.


Angela Riziki
P.O. Box 00200
Cellphone: +254 716 101 971
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Elias Bushiri Elie 
Nairobi Kenya 
Cellphone: +254 735 973 276
+254 792 556 909
Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Cephas Yao Agbemenu 
Department of Fine Arts
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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