Jojutupii ngakumanya mwini nzala. (Matengo)
Aliyekwisha kushiba hamjui mwenye njaa. (Kiswahili)
The person who has eaten and satisfied himself or herself does not care for the one who is hungry. (English)
Matengo (Tanzania) Proverb
Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Matengo people live in Mbinga District, Ruvuma Region in Tanzania. They are a hard working community. They grow coffee, maize, beans, and peas. They have close ties. They bring up their children by observing their long standing ethnic group traditions. Matengo people are very hospitable and generous to all especially to strangers. This Matengo proverb was traditionally used to remind the young people to treat other people kindly, particularly by offering food to those who are hungry.
The assumption of the proverb is based on the fact that food is one of the three basic needs of life: food, shelter, and clothes. Sharing food and drink is a common everyday practice that is carefully observed wherever one happens to go within the boundaries of this ethnic group. That is why greedy people are not accepted among the Matengo because they do not consider, and sympathize with, those who are hungry or in famine situations.
People who have experienced the pinch of hunger would eagerly sympathize with hungry people and be ready to help them with food. But people who have always plenty of food will find it very difficult to understand hungry people and thus fail to help them with food because they have never experienced its pinch. Some people, therefore, may find it difficult to help other people in their sufferings because they have not encountered such difficulties.
The Bible has some important parallels to this Matengo proverb including:
Hebrews 2: 17-18 “For it was not the angels that Christ took to himself, he too himself a descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. This is because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.” Luke 16: 19-24: “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
This Matengo proverb in Tanzania has a lot of contemporary relevance socially, economically, and politically. Rich countries do not understand the pinch affecting third world countries such as the abject poverty that is compounded by deadly diseases. People have to be kind and generous to our neighbors and those whom we come across in different situations irrespective of their ethnic group, creed, religion, gender, and disability. Street children and people with HIV/AIDS should not be stigmatized. Displaced persons, refugees, and those afflicted by natural disasters such as tsunami, hurricanes, drought, etc. should not be ignored.
NOTE: This Matengo proverb is No. 24 on page 11 in the book The Matengo (Tanzania) Proverbs and Sayings. Collected and explained by Rev. Egino Ndunguru. 42 pages. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Privately Duplicated, 2005. It is listed on the “Annotated Bibliography” Page of this website as one of the Endangered African Proverbs Collections that are a continuation of the African Proverbs Project.
Rev. Egino Ndunguru
P.O. Box 968