Akpa le tome gake menya tsi fe vevie nyenyeo. (Ewe)
A fish is in water but does not know the importance of water. (English literal translation)
A fish is the last to acknowledge the existence of water. (English figurative translation)
Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Ewe language is spoken in Southeast Ghana, Benin, parts of Southwest Nigeria and Southern Togo. The meaning of this proverb is that a fish is always in the water, but until it comes out of the water it doesn’t even recognize that the water exists. This proverb is about “taking things for granted” and similar to the saying that familiarity brings discontent. This proverb is used to refer to a person who is very close to a powerful person but has lost sense of his or her greatness and starts treating him or her as if they were ordinary people, for example, the children of very rich or politically powerful people.
On “taking things for granted” or “ungratefulness” we can refer to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” In this saying Jesus Christ is like the water of life for human beings and can too easily be taken for granted.
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
In this world of conflict and political upheavals, it is necessary for politicians to recognize the powers given to them by the electorates to solve human problems and create a better society for all. Unfortunately this group of “Big Fish” often do not recognize the political waters that should enable them to swim freely to solve human problems.
This proverb explains why African Christians, in particular some church leaders, are slow in Africanization and inculturation such as emphasizing the importance of African art. Africans can be the last to recognize the value of their local “Africanness” and the importance of their African cultures and environment. This Ewe proverb challenges them to inculturate more.
NOTE: This proverb is No. 25 in a forthcoming booklet Collection of 100 Ewe Proverbs.
Professor Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Fine Arts
P.O. Box 43844