[[Kaonde]] (Zambia) Proverb
Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
This Zambian proverb can also be translated as God’s cooking does not cause smoke. It shows God’s power. The almighty God, the all powerful God just does it. God does not need fire. He just does it. He says it and it is done. There is no other like Him. God is in a class by Himself. This Kaonde proverb refers to the many gifts of God that we take for granted because we never had to work for them such as wild fruits, mushrooms, herbs, etc. We did not cultivate them, but we eat and enjoy them. So this proverb teaches appreciation of God’s power and providence.
To show the close connection to other African peoples and languages the Sukuma (Tanzania) ethnic group has a similar proverb There is only one bull in the world (that is, God is all powerful) on the theme “The Unsurpassable Power of God.” God’s unsurpassable power and might are portrayed in vivid metaphors and actions. These are marvelous things to behold. God is the chief bull of the world.
Creation Story in Genesis. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light…” (Genesis 1:1-3).
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly
Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26). “And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith” (Matthew 6:28-30)
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
Today many people have lost the sense of God, the sense of God’s power, the sense of the uniqueness of God. We are challenged to rediscover God’s power in the world. We are called to become more “God conscious” – to be more aware of God’s power and providence in our lives and to rely on God more in our daily actions. When life seems a failure and everything seems lost, God can intervene and help us. The Shona people in Zimbabwe call God “The One Who Turns Things Upside Down.”
As we explore how African proverbs are relevant for today, a quotation from John Ganly is appropriate: “In the oral wisdom of the Bantu people are the riches which no other people have seen, nor have they heard, nor has it entered their minds…Let us save it before it is too late!”
NOTE: Father John Ganly, M.M. chose this proverb as a future “African Proverb of the Month.” However he passed away before he completed the write-up. So we — two Maryknoll missionary priests who are working in Africa — have completed the project in honor of him and his research in Zambia. Father Ganly is now one of our revered ancestors in Christ. This proverb is published as No. 137 on pages 30-31 in Kaonde Proverbs by Fr. John C. Ganly, M.M. (privately printed).
Rev. Joseph G. Healey, M.M.
P.O. Box 43058
00100 Nairobi, Kenya
Rev. Donald Sybertz, M.M.
P.O. Box 47