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Site Last Update: 14 Dec, 2019
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Endangered African Proverbs Collections: Subi (Tanzania) Proverbs
One of the follow-ups to the African Proverbs Project (1993-1996) is the collection of African proverbs in languages that are small, not well known or in danger of dying out. These are called "Endangered African Proverbs Collections." A modest collection of 100 to 200 proverbs in these languages is being carried out through our four Regional Resource Centers in Africa. A "Collection of 186 Subi Proverbs" was carried out in 2004-2005 under the direction of the Hekima College Library in Nairobi, Kenya, the Regional Resource Center in Eastern Africa. A summary of this booklet of 186 Subi Proverbs is as follows:

Endangered African Proverbs Collections
A Continuation of the African Proverbs Project

Collection of 186 Subi Proverbs

Along the borders of Tanzania and Rwanda (Ngara, Rulenge, Biharamulo and Kibondo)

Collected by Joseph Nkumbulwa with the help of Max Tertrais, M. Afr. in conjunction with the Sukuma Research Committee, Sukuma Cultural Centre, Bujora, P. O. Box 76. Mwanza, Tanzania

February, 2005

The Basubi Ethnic Group live along the borders of Tanzania and Rwanda, specifically in Ngara and Biharamulo Districts in Kagera Region, Northwest Tanzania. They are also found in other parts of East African countries. Originally their ancestors came from Rwanda. Now the majority live among the Wahangaza and Washubi Ethnic Groups. Basubi mix comfortably with the Bazinza, Walongo, Wahaya, Washubi, Waha, and Wasukuma. They share different cultural customs, but it is feared that the Basubi traditions are gradually being overridden by other ethnic groups. Basubi were basically hunters and honey collectors in the bush. Those who lived along the shores of Lake Victoria in villages such as Buzilayombo and Chato involved themselves in fishing. Although African ethnic groups have always been clinging to their indigenous traditions and other cultures, they have many proverbs which have the same or similar common meanings as if they were brought up under one syllabus curriculum of formal education. Indeed, its fascinating to know how other African indigenous communities use proverbs in educating, character formation, and nurturing their children right from a tender age so that they grow up to be good citizens. The traditional values have always enhanced the language and at the same time empowered the society to transfer these values from one generation to another generation. This collection has a total of 186 Subi proverbs. Each proverb is written in Subi and then translated into Swahili and English. Adequate effort has been made in providing some explanation on everyday use. The proverbs include topics on ignorance, prudence, obedience, discipline, dignity, sympathy, diligence, superstition, faith, pride, responsibility, love, etc. For example, Proverb No. 20 gives a warning against ignorance for it is very expensive in life:

Mzigo wa mjinga huishia begani. Hutumia Ka mambo yasiyo na faida. Huisha na hubaki na shida zaidi. (Swahili)
The treasury of a stupid person is without profit. Probably a lot of troubles will follow his death.

Explanation: Instead of profit and development, the imbecile’s wealth will bring his family a lot of unpleasant problems. It is like the Gospel story about the man who puts his talent (talanta) in a cave. No. 95 refers to the undesirable belief in superstition. No. 150 is intended to teach people to have workable plans for future life, etc. This Subi collection provides another landmark success in the challenging attempt of preserving the endangered African proverbs.

Mr. John Mbonde and Rev. Joseph G. Healey, M.M.