Amazi gakulikila umgolomoko. (Shubi).
Background, Explanation, History, Meaning and Everyday Use
It is clear that water follows the slope, from the higher point to the lower one. It is a universal rule of nature that suffers no exception. Kavumo and Luvubu are two Shubi rivers in Tanzania which like any other ones demonstrate the fact that it is simply impossible for the water to climb up a hill.
This proverb when applied in human society is meant to show a relationship from cause to consequence. Concerning human behaviour, it expresses something that is unavoidable when considering the truth or the nature of the person concerned. For instance, when somebody who is already notoriously known as a thief is found stealing, his or her deed is just the consequence of what he or she is and it was therefore to be expected in the same way that water follows the slope.
But this proverb is also used to refer to people who are taken advantage of because of some trait or weakness of character. For instance, somebody who is meek and unable to defend his or her rights will be unavoidably trampled down just as water follows the slope.
The first use of this proverb has clear parallels from the Gospels, for instance in Matthew 7:16-20 where Jesus invites us to smart discernment between different kinds of people according to rules similar to the one found in our proverb: “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit…Thus you will know them by their fruits.”
Again in John 8:41-43 Jesus explains the behaviour of his opponents by referring to their true identity revealed through the ‘father’ they choose follow: “You do what your father did." They said to him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, God." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me…you are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires…He is a liar and the father of lies.”
It is important to notice that within the Gospels acknowledgment of the otherwise cruel laws of nature does not mean that the person is unavoidably locked up into an ultimate fatality which could lead to despair. If it is true that the nature of the fruits follows the nature of the tree and that a person acts according to the identity of his or her father, there is at the same time the revelation that within human society, a particular person is endowed with the capacity to choose the tree or the father that he or she may want to adopt. Selecting the nature of the spirit animating the body is within human power. It is a question of asking oneself: What kind of person would I really like to become? The answer will invite integration of particular models for the nourishment of the human personality. The examples given by Jesus forcefully compel us to ask some questions such as: Which are the trees already present within myself? Who truly is my father?
Paul’s later theological developments provide further light on the means whereby the faithful may be enabled to select the nature of their models for subsequent integration. The Holy Spirit is dwelling within the believer. Within a remarkable quote found in Romans 8:23 the Holy Spirit is compared at the same time to both the good tree providing some pleasing fruits and the reminder as to whom is our ultimate Father: “We ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons and daughters.” The faithful welcoming the Holy Spirit will unavoidably enjoy all His benefits and riches as for instance in Romans 14:17: “The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
As for the second possible use of the proverb, Jesus explains that meekness does not mean weakness. Indeed there will be persecutions for the righteous people and so Jesus warns his followers as in Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” This quote that is found within the context of a prophecy of persecution is also inviting us to full confidence in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit: “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:20). The Holy Spirit is again the good tree and the means for the full power of the Father.
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
This proverb is ambiguous. On one hand, it could be understood as a fatalistic statement leading to passivity and scepticism. But on the other hand, it is promisingly challenging. It provokes the listener to draw conclusions from premises found within a particular personality and consequently to inspire renewal of it. Human actions and deeds are most often the immediate consequences of what kind of people they have chosen to become in the first place. Moreover today’s world that is created from a great range of human activities remains the world that human beings have made according to what they bear within themselves.
The spiritual renewal that is badly needed in order to bring about a just and more peaceful world is a challenge. Many areas of human activity such as medical or technological research, world economy or environmental degradations would greatly benefit from a clearer view of the root causes animating them.
Father Pascal Durand. MAfr Catechist Joseph Nkumbulwa (who died in 2012)
P.O. Box 475 Geita, Tanzania
Tel.: (Tanzania): 00255 783 078 985
Text and Photographs by:
Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Art and Design
P.O. Box 43844