Chagga (Tanzania) Proverb
Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Chagga are a Bantu People whose homeland stretches across the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, in Northeastern Tanzania. They practice mixed farming and believe in a world view that integrates life’s hardships as unavoidable co- building blocks of a successful life. This Chagga saying expresses in a nutshell their philosophy and theology of life vis-a-vis suffering; and is often repeated to youngsters, as well as to old folks, who find life’s goings too difficult to bear in order to encourage them to persevere and to carry on. It is given in three Chagga dialects:
Kulalya ukiwa kommba mndu vo. (Uru dialect – Hai District)
Ulandelye ukiwa ulandewe mndu pfo. (Vunjo dialect – Vunjo District)
Utametelya ukiva weva mndu kwi. (Rombo dialect – Rombo District)
Success stories of persons who have made it in life through sheer struggle (or suffering) are much extolled among the Chagga people by using this saying. Such persons are looked upon as heroes or heroines that others can imitate or learn from.
Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your face will you earn your food.”
Philippians 2: 6-11: “He emptied himself… Therefore God has highly exalted him.”
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
Commitment and hard work in improving the dehumanizing standards of life anywhere in the world is undoubtedly a positive participation in God’s work of recreating a fallen world.
NOTE: See Proverb No. 42 of Endangered African Proverbs Collections: A Continuation of the African Proverbs Project. Collection of 100 Chagga Sayings (Njaambo 100 za Kichakha). Collected and explained by Michael Mushi. Arusha, Tanzania: Privately Duplicated, June, 2005. 18 pages. http://www.afriprov.org/resources/bibliogr.htm#EAPC_chagga
Rev. Michael Mushi, A.J.
Apostles of Jesus Regional House
P.O. Box 133