Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
Who wants to obtain good results has to do good and precise preparation. It is necessary to know well the conditions of payment, to think carefully before taking a good resolution, to think well before assuming any commitment.
This proverb, taken from the precious book Sabedoria Cabinda – Símbolos e Provérbios by Father Joaquim Martins, C.S.Sp. that was published in Lisbon in 1968 by the Junta de Investigações do Ultramar, goes together with very simple drawings of a fist and an arm. One of the characteristics of the wisdom of Cabinda in Angola, represented by different peoples and particularly by the Bakongo and Bauoio, is the process to express themselves not only by words, but also with symbols and objects going together with the words adapted for every situation of life and problems. The author writes in the introduction: “In the past, for the occasion of marriage, the family of the bride used to cover the pots of the food, which were sent to the family of the bridegroom, with lids full of symbols which were adequate to the event, to show to the bridegroom how they wanted the bride to be treated. And vice versa, in the lids of pots sent by the bridegroom to the family of the bride.”
The Bakongo and Bauoio people, together with the Balinge, Bavili, Basundi, Baluangi, form the people of Cabinda, a small, but very rich territory which belongs to Angola and at the same time is placed like a “wedge” in the territory of the Republic of Congo. In Portuguese it is called “o enclave de Cabinda” with an area of 7,120 square kilometers and a population of around 350,000.
In the Gospels Jesus speaks many times about the necessity of being prudent, vigilant, and prepared before facing big decisions and situations in life. I find particularly relevant to this Kongo proverb the quotation of Luke where we read these words of Jesus about the cost of being a disciple:
“Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?… Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?” Cf. Luke 14:28-32 in The African Bible.
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
Today we need to cultivate a spirit of reflection and of thinking things over, to weight the pros and cons of what we are supposed to do in life. In our society with so many pressures, many times we may fall so easily into attitudes that are just the expression of our emotions without any control. We may fall into aggressiveness or violence, or into states or situations of life where afterwards we regret so much where we find ourselves. Too many messages, also conveyed by the means of social communications, so many political and economic slogans, fashions, and influences of other cultures, are simply a lot of noise especially in the urban, overpopulated areas. They may create an obstacle for people to have time to think, to reflect, to ponder and also to pray about what we feel, about good or bad past experiences in life, in order to draw good resolutions for the future. Both the sound tradition of our ancestors and the Word of God invite us to be more attentive to what is going on inside of us and the motivations of our behavior.
Sister Maria De Carli, FSP
Paulines Publications Africa
P.O. Box 49026
00100 Nairobi GPO, Kenya