|Imbuto zikurura zishingirwa ibiti. (Rufumbira)
Mmea utambaao hauwezi stawi bila kuchimikiwa kijiti. (Swahili)
Une plante vrille ne peut pas grandir seule, sans le support d’un arbre. (French)
A climbing plant with tendrils cannot grow on its own without a tree’s support. (English)
Rufumbira (Uganda) Proverb
Background Explanation And Everyday Use
The Bafumbira are a Bantu ethnic group from Kisoro within Uganda. They comprise three indigeneous groups: the Bahuutu, the Batutsi and the Batwa. They speak a language called Fumbira. The language has other alternative names: Bafumbira, Banyarwanda, Kinyarwanda, Ruanda, Rufumbira, Runyarwanda, Rwanda. It has an intonation of the Rukiga language of Uganda. The Fumbira language is spoken in various dialects, namely: Igikiga (Igishiru, Ikigoyi, Kiga, Tshiga), Bufumbwa, Hutu (Hera, Lera, Ndara, Ndogo, Shobyo, Tshogo, Ululera), Rutwa (Twa), Gitwa, and Ikinyanduga. The Bafumbira were part of Rwanda until 1910 when Kigezi was hived off to Uganda by the colonialists. In Rwanda, they were governed by chiefs who were under the leadership of the King of Rwanda.
The Bafumbira are believed by some to be Rwandese immigrants, and by others to be the descendants of the Bakiga whose close association with the Rwandese merged into the Kifumbira, a language 90% similar to Kinyarwanda. This was brought about by the mixture of their culture and traditions. The Bafumbira are divided into eight major clans which were created along different totems ranging from animals, plants and bird species. Each clan was identified by the hill they occupied. Single clans lived together. Polygamy was an accepted practice and so the extended families lived together. The young men were usually pressured to marry immediately they became of age. Not only did this elevate the man’s status, but it also increased the family size, and the number of community members. Large numbers meant more support for one another and a greater ability to succeed in their endeavors.
Their kind of lifestyle led to the creation of this Rufumbira proverb. The community and the extended families depended on each other’s support in everything they did, regardless of their age. The youth depended on the support of the adults to guide and teach them on how to deal with issues. The adults depended on each other as well as their children to accomplish duties in the family and in the community. For example, child upbringing and disciplining; marriage arrangements; and, religious practices were done communally, either by the whole family or the whole community. An individual would seem out of place if he/she handled any matter without involving other people. They all needed one another to make decisions and carry out activities.
This encouraged cohesion among them; therefore disputes were minimized or were resolved easily. People benefited as a team from one another’s counsel and support.
Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Psalms 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
1 Peter 4:10: “As every person has received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
The basic social unit called the family is tasked with meeting the basic needs of its members who can’t provide for themselves, such as minors, the elderly, or the disabled; or those who cannot afford enough to live on by themselves. Basic needs such as food, water and shelter are accessible when family members work together as a whole. Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” stipulates that all human beings need to have a feeling of belonging as a basic need. A healthy, functional family can effectively provide this. More so, happiness and satisfaction are enjoyed by a healthy family when they spend time together. They will have access to everyday joys and an incentive to live a healthy life. Research shows that people who have children living with them tend to live longer and healthier lives, socially, mentally and physically.
The world is made up of diverse cultures and great peoples. Each person has something unique and special to offer as a human being. We must therefore recognize the many gifts that God has created in us through His love. Together, the family and the community have many great things to share. This can be achieved through teamwork, whereby each individual is aware of their strengths and they are willing to use those strengths. As humans we need each other to survive.
Christian unity is that unique grace of the Holy Spirit which allows believers and personalities from all backgrounds to be of one heart, one mind, and one spirit in their love for Jesus Christ and in their commitment to the gospel. When believers live in unity, it reveals the life-changing power of the gospel to a watching world. Unity for believers must begin at the level of the family before it can truly characterize the church. God created families long before He created the church. He gave many specific instructions to families with the intent of unifying husbands and wives and children into a unit that would honor and revere Him. His expectations were specific and straightforward, whether in the Old Testament or in the New Testament.
God’s kingdom would grow if the church was comprised of unified families obediently carrying out the Great Commandments and the Great Commission. If each individual family member, and each relationship represented within each family, would determine to live in unity, and if we were all committed to loving the Lord with passion, and to loving others as Jesus loves us, perhaps then, we would all be drawn to the Father. A family should and must begin with unity –connection, identity and building up of one another. Only in unity are we able to carry out such relationships successfully, and in ways that are pleasing to the Lord. Many African proverbs teach these values.
NOTE: This proverb is No. 19 in A Collection of 100 Ruf Proverbs and Wise Sayings by Angela Katabarwa Chelo in collaboration with African Proverbs Working Group, Nairobi, Kenya.
Angela Katabarwa Chelo
Cellphone: +254 707 367 671
Bcz Mabuto, Ed.