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REPORT OF THE MEETING OF PEOPLE INTERESTED IN AFRICAN PROVERBS
Urban Ministry Support Group (UMSG) Office Nairobi, Kenya
Saturday, 6 October, 2001

Agenda.

  1. Opening remarks.
  2. Paper presentations and discussions.
  3. Review of the African Proverbs Project.
  4. Way forward.

Participants.

  1. Thomas Ochieng, P.O. Box 51079, Nairobi, Kenya
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  2. Pastor Michael Wanyama, P.O. Box 2275, K.N.H.
    Nairobi, Kenya
  3. P. Murundu, P.O. Box 2182, K.N.H, Nairobi, Kenya
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  4. Mike Koski, P.O. Box 14424, Nairobi, Kenya
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  5. B. Howell, P.O. Box 60875, Nairobi, Kenya
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  6. Evans K. Nyakundi, Hekima College Library, P.O.Box 21215, Nairobi, Kenya
    Tel. 576607/8/9
  7. Rev. Joseph Healey, M.M, Maryknoll Society, P.O. Box 867, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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  8. Joseph Kariuki Muriithi (Secretary of the Meeting), P.O. Box 41512, Nairobi, Kenya
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  9. Dr. Kyalo Wadi Wamitila, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 7535, Nairobi, Kenya
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  10. George Okoyo Liboyi, Urban Ministries Support Group, P.O. Box 60875, Nairobi, Kenya
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  11. Prof Monica N.W. Mweseli, Chairperson, Department of Literature and Linguistics; CEES
    University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 6374, Nairobi, Kenya
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  12. Nicholas Adongo, Urban Ministries Support Group, P.O. Box 16406, Nairobi, Kenya
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  13. Dr. Gerald J. Wanjohi (Acting Chairperson of the Meeting), P.O. Box 32440, Nairobi, Kenya
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    Tel: 712632
  14. Sam Wanyoike, P.O. Box 68191, Nairobi, Kenya
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Proceedings of the Meeting.

  1. The meeting started with self-introductions.
  2. Evans Nyakundi gave a presentation on the research he has been doing. He said he is on his second phase of his collection of Gusii proverbs having done and bound together the first collection resulting from his earlier research. He said in the second phase of his research he has collected 320 proverbs that he has put down in writing.

    He also said he is working on stories. He read to participants a story, one of the many he has collected from his Gusii Ethnic Group. His stories are in Gusii and he has also translated them to English and provided biblical parallels to these stories.

    The participants concerns were: How he was dealing with the question of dialects in standardizing the language he was using in the Gusii given that the Gusii community has different dialects. He answered that he was retaining the proverbs linguistics properties as he has collected them. He said that he was treating these proverbs that appeared to have different linguistic properties as different proverbs.

     

  3. Joseph Kariuki gave a presentation in form of critique on a community radio and how it is promoting the use of proverbs in Nairobi. He noted that the radio station targets Nairobi Kikuyu audience because its frequency reach is Nairobi and its environs. He raised a number of observations about the programmes that deal with proverbs.

    He was concerned that most of the youth were not interested in the programmes given that in most of the call-in sessions its the elderly people who call to be explained a certain proverb or to explain. He also observed that among the youths with whom he has talked to about the programmes, most would not remember the proverbs that has been elucidated upon that day, let alone know its meaning once it was given to them. He wondered how the radio could target the youth to make them appreciate proverbs.

    He observed that what goes for the proverbs among the youth in Nairobi was popular sayings associated with the matatus (popular means of public transport in Kenya that involves mini-buses) culture. He was concerned that most of these sayings use very dirty language that does not have any educative value to the youth.

  4. Dr. Gerald Wanjohi gave a presentation on history and Kikuyu proverbs. He observed that most traditional proverbs concerns that were cows, arrowroots, goats, etc or things that were found within the traditional environment. He observed that

    (a) There are new proverbs that are not typically Kikuyu

    (b) There are proverbs that carry words that dates with colonization

    (c) There are Kikuyu terms that are not in proverbs but are in use today

    He said there are proverbs that have words that are not Kikuyu such as "Caitani" meaning the devil, "Bundi" for artisan, "Tauni" for town, etc. He said that the Kikuyu only had "ngoma" or spirits for instance. He also noted that most of the foreign words found their way in Kikuyu proverbs due to interaction with other languages like Kiswahili and English. He noted that among some early words that came from Kiswahili must have come via their earlier partner, the Kamba people who acted as the middlemen between the coastal Swahili traders and the Kikuyu.

    The most curious thing that he has learnt is that there are some Kikuyu words found in proverbs but when people speak they use different word. He gave one example of two words "nduari" and "murimu" both of which means disease or sickness. He said in the proverbs the latter word is used but in everyday talk, the former word, "nduari" is used.

  5. Rev. Healey gave a presentation on "The Use Of African Stories In Talks And Sermons." He used four short African stories--classified as cultural/animal, true story or true personal story, covering the themes of inculturation, interreligious dialogue, forgiveness and single-minded purpose in serving God or doing things -- in explaining his topic to participants. Each of these stories has a biblical parallel.

    Three of the stories he used are also found in the book: Joseph G. Healey, M.M. and Donald F. Sybertz, M.M., Towards An African Narrative Theology (Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 3rd Reprint, 2001 and Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 3rd Printing 2001), 400 pages.

  6. Rev. Healey gave a review of African Proverbs Project by distributing the Urban Ministries Support Group news bulletin called UMSG News for June, 2001 to the participants. In brief he said the project was started in 1994 by Christian’s churches to survey African countries by collecting, studying and interpreting its proverbs.

    Among its milestones has been (1) holding conferences of researchers, (2) production of a CD-ROM of collections, studies and bibliographies, (3) production of African Proverbs books series, (4) setting up of regional centres in Nairobi, Kenya, South Africa, Legon, Ghana, and Abidjan, Ivory Coast which caters for Francophone Africa (5) Coming up with a forum for discussion by setting up an E-mail discussion list and website, (6) holding ongoing meetings.

    He invited participants to visit the African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Website at: http://www.afriprov.org

  7. Way forward.

    Participants revisited the issue of meetings emphasizing the need to meet more frequently. The Kenya planning committee on the proverbs was urged to be meeting every month if only to keep the project on track.

    Participants were also reminded that there is a grant of US $400 for endangered proverbs (proverbs from minor languages spoken in Africa.]

    The need to popularize proverbs through the radio, newspapers and books was revisited. The example of "African Oral Traditions", a recorded tape on stories, proverbs, songs and sayings about and from Africa by the Comboni Missionaries was used as a showcase.

    After tea and coffee the meeting ended successfully at 5.48.p.m.

    Joseph Kariuki (Secretary)

     

 

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