Short Report of African Proverbs Meeting held on Friday, 26th April 2002.
Urban Ministries Support Group Office, Nairobi, Kenya
Rev. Joe Healey
The meeting started at 3:10 p.m.
Those present mainly discussed Evans Nyakundi’s presentation on Gusii, Kenya proverbs. Evans said that some of the influences in the use of proverbs are the background of the individual, education, and environment. He explained that when a child is growing up (s)he is exposed to different values that exist at different stages of the child’s development. He said that every stage of the child development is shaped by different values of proverbs that have religious, social, moral and philosophical values.
He used the example of the Gusii proverb, The trails of the cow that is troublesome continues to persist in the calves, that has religious and generational values. This scenario presented by this proverb captures a human being’s own experience, that man or woman is compared to the cow in the proverb. A scriptural parallel of this proverb is found in John 8: 44.
According to the Gusii people the traditional values of the Gusii proverbs were very useful in making decisions. For instance, elderly men in the traditional set up were seen as the custodians of wisdom and regarded as the arbiters of social values. The use of proverbs often differentiated the young and the old. Today this aspect in the Christian religion can be equated to the knowledge and wisdom of the Bible that differentiates between young and mature believers. Therefore the values and knowledge of proverbs in the past like the value and knowledge of the Bible today are specific to age.
Proverbs provide us a unique way of communicating that is quite selective. The use of them is dependent on the depth of meaning and experience in using them. Some are very complex and difficult to comprehend since their meaning is obscure, but to elders who are used to them they serve as shelter from which to hide while communicating with the ordinary people.
Other discussants in this session asked a number of questions:
The four participants also talked about the “2003 African Proverbs Calendar.” They said that it is not good to delay its production because some organisations have already begun producing their 2003 calendars. Rev. Joe Healey read out the 12 proverbs that were used in the 2002 calendar and from the 34 others that remained, they began selecting the 12 proverbs to be used in the forthcoming calendar. They chose 10 proverbs from 10 different African countries. They set themes with which the appropriate proverbs could go. The themes are celebrated in the calendar year annually. Some the themes selected are: Equality, mission spirit, suffering/self denial, education, hospitality, patience/endurance and joy/celebration. The main difficult in this exercise was finding specific proverbs that have not already been used to fit certain themes.
The meeting ended at 5.10 p.m.