|Ya basapudi yona bubutule. (Luba–Katanga)
Wambea wavunja mawasiliano kati ya familia. (Swahili)
Les bobards de gens detruisent les relations familiales. (French)
Tall stories destroy the family relationship. (English)
Luba–Katanga (Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC) Proverb
Background, Explanation, History, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Luba people, or Baluba, are one of the Bantu peoples of Central Africa, and the largest ethnic group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They are indigenous to the Katanga, Kasai and Maniema regions that are historic provinces of the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. They speak Luba–Katanga, Luba–Kasai and Swahili languages. There is also a pidginized variety of Tshiluba especially in the cities where the everyday spoken Tshiluba is enriched with French words and even other languages such as Lingala or Swahili. Nevertheless this variety is not a typical form of a pidgin language since it is not common to everyone, and changes it morphology — the quality and the degree to which words from other languages are used. Luba–Katanga, also known as Luba–Shaba and Kiluba is spoken as well as Luba–Kasai in that section of DRC. The Luba tended to cluster in small families with rectangular houses facing a single street. Agriculture was based upon slash-and-burn cultivation in areas with good soil (usually by rivers), supplemented by hunting and fishing in surrounding bush country.
The prestige attached to the lineage of the sacred king was enormous and rulers of small neighboring chiefdoms were eager to associate themselves with Luba culture. In return for tribute in goods and labor, these less powerful rulers were integrated into the royal lineage and adopted the sacred Luba ancestors as their own. Ultimately, long-distance trade destroyed the Kingdom of Luba. This was brought by European colonists (particular the Belgian ones) who began raiding the empire for slaves and this began the destruction of the Luba Kingdom. In 1899 the empire was split in two by a succession dispute influenced by the European colonists.
The Luba people are told to keep off, and not pay attention to, gossiping people who talk about you because you might end up in a division with your brothers and sisters, and even your friends, and thus destroy your family relationships.
“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devised wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that spoken lies and he that sowed discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descended not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish, for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:14-16).
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
Ironically some African ethnic identities and divisions now portrayed as ancient and unchanging actually were created in the colonial period. In other cases, earlier distinctions took new, more rigid and conflictual forms over the last century. The changes came out of the communities’ interactions within a colonial or post-colonial context as well as the movement of people to cities to work and live. The vast majority of African ethnic conflicts could not have happened a century ago in the ways that they do now.
But there is hope to be in a new relationship with all those who caused trouble in our previous relationships with our relatives and friends in a particular historical time because the Bible says: “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
NOTE: This Luba–Katanga proverb is No. 100, in a Collection of 100 Luba–Katanga Proverbs by Elias Bushiri Elie in collaboration with the African Proverbs Working Group (Nairobi: Privately Printed, 2015).
Elias Bushiri Elie
Cellphone: +254 701 391 1149
Photographs provided by:
Professor Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Fine Arts
P.O. Box 43844