Njairi utenderu ndicicagwa.(Mbeere)
Huwezikuepuka kukanyanga panapo telezanjeya nyumba. (Swahili)
Dans sa concession, on ne peut jamais éviter à piétiner sur un espace glissant (French)
It is not possible to avoid a slippery home compound. (English)
Mbeere (Kenya) Proverb
Background, History, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Wabeere people are one of the Bantu ethnic groups of Kenya in East Africa. They speak Mbeere, a dialect of the Embu language. There is a lexical similarity of 85%. The Wabeere live on the south-eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya.
Their myth of origin states that they trekked from beyond the Balana (Borana) lands, past the eastern Kenya border, believed to be the modern Ethiopia, and moved along the Thuci river. They settled on a hilly land believed to have had no inhabitatns previously. They called it Kiambere Hill. (the hill of the first habitants – kirimakiaandu a mbere).
The Wabeere have two root clans: Mururi and Ndamata. They lived in communities with mutual inter-dependence as families and social units. They were hunter-gatherers originally, but changed to farmers and pastoralists after interacting with the Kikuyu and Kamba who bordered their land. Some families were polygamous, but harmony reigned because all the wives were treated equally. All their huts were built in one compound to serve all members of the family. Their entrances faced the main communal compound. They, therefore, remained associated and close to one another daily. Most activities were done communally such as herding cattle and goats, tilling the land, holding ceremonies and performing domestic chores. Cohesion had to be ensured in order for them to live peacefully.
This proverb is derived from their way of life of living closely together. The family members could not avoid meeting and dealing with each other daily. Whether a member/s were good or bad people, they could not be ignored or isolated easily. They were part of the large family. Weakness makes us believe we can segregate ourselves from other people. But just like the slippery compound, everyone must walk on it in order to reach their chosen destination. One cannot fly! Human beings need association and support of one another, regardless of their indifferences towards one another. For instance, family members, business partners, colleagues and church members need each other in their daily lives.
Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Being your brother’s keeper has helped the society to grow spiritually, as was taught by Jesus Christ. We shoulder each other’s burden because when one is affected by a problem, we all are affected directly or indirectly.
1 Thessalonians 5:14: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” The Church supports each other in many ways, especially in prayers for each other, and praying for non-believers to come to Christ because they are also children of God. They too need God’s favor and we cannot segregate them in society.
Romans 15:7:”Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
In today’s community set-up, people do not want to associate with their next door neighbors due to insecurity, need for privacy or suspicion. However, when danger or problems arise, they can then unite and work with each other, as a result of the uncomfortable circumstances. In the family situation, in-laws may not be united, but need each other’s support. The link created by their children’s relationship bonds them, whether they like it or not. Blood ties make it inevitable to associate with each other. Unity is necessary for this to work and to keep the cohesion in the family. A bride cannot avoid a mother-in-law because she is part of the family, however bad the relationship might be.
Margaret Wambere Ireri
Photographs selected by:
Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Art and Design
P.O. Box 43844