|Ebisero byingi ebikukwata ebyenyanja byaba biri omumizi tibikakuzibira kwibika ekisero ekyawe. (Toro)
Nyavu nyingi majini, haziwezi kukuzuia kuzamisha yako. (Kiswahili)
Trop de panier de pêche dans l’eau ne peut pas vous empêcher de plonger le vôtre. (French)
Too many fishing baskets in the water cannot prevent you from dipping yours. (English)
Toro (Uganda) Proverb
Background, Meaning and Everyday Use of the Proverb
The Batoro are a Bantu-speaking people who inhabit the high plateau between Lakes Albert and Edward, and on the west border the Ruwenzori Range in south-western Uganda. Toro land comprises rainforests, dense bamboo, papyrus swamps, plains of elephant grass and the shores of Lakes Albert and Edward. The Batoro occupy the districts of Kabarole and Kasese. Their area has been infiltrated by many immigrants from other parts of western Uganda, particularly the Bakiga.
To their east live the Banyoro; to their north are the Bamba and Bakonjo; to their south-east and west live the Banyankore and to their south live the Baganda. It is believed that the Toro, like other Bantu, originated from the Congo region. The Batoro community was divided into the Bairu and the Bahuma. But their relationship was more of economic activity rather than differentiation of class. The Bahuma practiced pastoralism, while the Bairu were cultivators. These two groups lived symbiotically, with the Bahuma providing milk, meat, hides among other cattle products. The Bairu on their part provided beer among other agricultural products.
Since the Batoro were surrounded by lakes, fishing was one of their main economic activities. They believed that the lakes were a resource given to the community by God. However, some of the members regarded themselves as more deserving than others. Their greed drove them first to take over some strategic sections of the lake, but eventually the whole lake was under their control. This led to a conflict and a case was brought before the elders who wisely decreed that everyone had an equal opportunity to use the lake and to do fishing.
The Toro proverb Too many fishing baskets in the water cannot prevent you from dipping yours resulted from this conflict. The proverb teaches us that as human beings, we have universal rights that should not be denied by anyone. For instance, everyone has equal rights to be treated fairly and to feel included in any critical decisions of the community. The proverb also empowers those who feel that their rights are being infringed upon to fight for their space. People are encouraged not to discriminate others due to gender, economic status, race, among other factors, but to work cohesively to achieve common goals.
This particular proverb was used to encourage members of the community to undertake their endeavors even when it seemed difficult to succeed. Nobody should be discouraged by whatever situation. The themes of equality, inclusiveness and fairness are expressed in this proverb: All people working together towards a common goal, without discrimination – all casting their fishing baskets, hoping to catch fish regardless of the high number of the baskets in the lake. They all have an equal chance. When people work together, cohesion is guaranteed. No one discriminates against another because of differences in appearance or status. Thus, the proverb was used to help people to develop a positive perception about others.
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
In the modern society, the issues of equality, inclusiveness and fairness have been thorny ones. A lot of strides have been made to address these through legislative mechanisms, but more needs to be done to change the people’s mindsets, attitudes and behavior. The groups that are mostly affected by these issues at different levels and platforms are women and people segregated based on their skin color and religious affiliation.
As Christians, we need to teach others that we are one family — sons and daughters of the Living God. It is the original declaration of equal dignity of all humankind, a dignity that arises out of our solidarity as humans created and redeemed by God. We should learn to embrace each other equally, to include others’ opinions in the decisions affecting them and to treat them fairly and in the manner we would like to be treated. We should detest greed and instead share among ourselves the resources that we have, for “what does it profit a human to gain the whole world and lose his soul.”
Every person has the right to equal and fair treatment, independent of their gender, race, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs or any other personal characteristic. Truly equal and fair societies are more likely to be prosperous and harmonious ones. Failure to tackle discrimination and to provide equal opportunities hurts individuals and families, negatively impacts our society and costs the economy.
NOTE: This proverb is No. 6 in the booklet A Collection of 100 Toro (Uganda) Proverbs and Wise Sayings published by Kevin Namatsi Okubo in collaboration with the African Proverbs Working Group, Nairobi, Kenya.
Kevin Namatsi Okubo
Cell phone: +254 715-307874
Photograph provided by:
Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Fine Art and Design
P.O. Box 43844
Cell phone: +254 723-307992