Proverbs of the Abagusii of Kenya

Meaning and Application

Like most cultural groups, the oral tradition of Abagusii People of Kenya is expressed in, among others, proverbs. These capture lessons and meaning, modulated by time and context as they are passed down generations. Like riddles and metaphors, proverbs express the wisdom of a culture and find apt applications in many situations. Christopher Okemwa’s work documents some of the proverbs of Abagusii, their meaning, context in which they are used and application thereof. In this book proverbs are documented in their original form accompanied by English translations in addition to lessons they offer. Embedded in this collection are cultural aspects such as beliefs and norms which touch on many aspects of Abagusii society. These aspects include relationships among people, communal life, gender matters, economic issues and many more.

What Others Say

“Through careful translation and transcription of Proverbs of Abagusii People of Kenya: Meaning & Application, Okemwa shares knowledge and cultural diversity as a wide range of themes and motifs recur hence multiplying meanings and implications. These proverbs explore both the socio-political and socio-economic issues, as well as fulfill the aesthetic function.” -Ms. Gladys Nyaiburi Ogaro, Mount. Kenya University

“The uniqueness of this work lies in its use of Ekegusii language to impart culture of Abagusii on the reader through the imagery in proverbs. The advantage of ‘hearing’ Ekegusii first hand, its literal and deep meaning provided, makes it ideal for students and teachers of language and culture in learning institutions. The work also preserves, for posterity, wisdom that may become extinct with the passage of time.”-Margaret Kemunto Obaga, Catholic University, Nairobi, Kenya.

“Christopher Okemwa’s Proverbs of Abagusii of Kenya: Meaning & Application captures and radiates, with delight, the wisdom and beauty in Abagusii proverbs. For Ekegusii speakers of the language the translation provided gives the proverbs versatility in content and pervasive reach, thus making them universal pieces of erudition that challenge and encourage. The proverb, ‘Naigure ndumo boina ko mosiori ntamanya’ (I have heard noise coming from grave diggers, but I am not sure who will be first to be interred), for instance, warns everybody against the barbarism of intransigence and physical confrontations, a universal piece of wisdom. Reading this invaluable book is a sure-fire route to intellectual nourishment. Okemwa has documented answers to our deep-seated questions on our socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-political queries as captured by Abagusii proverbs. The wisdom therein helps one pry into one’s own inadequacies and learn challenge adversity.” -Bwocha Nyagemi Bwocha, St. Augustine University, Tanzania.

Proverbs also serve to communicate indigenous beliefs and values. Accordingly, African proverbs provide a rich source of information on indigenous value systems. Articles of morality, ethics, thrift, and industry are often hidden in these proverbs. These may have been missed by many foreign researchers because of language barriers, leading to much distortion of the native system of values.

Laziness, in most parts of traditional Africa, is frowned upon. In fact, the lazy are shunned and chastised by the elders. The reason is simple: an ethnic group composed of lazy people would become extinct or fall prey to a warrior tribe. Valor and diligence are qualities most stressed by the elders for survival. The Fanti of Ghana have many proverbs that abjure laziness. One says, "If you depend on someone else for breakfast, you go without food." In modern parlance: "If you depend upon someone for foreign aid or a welfare check, you will go without food." Another Fanti proverb says: Obi nhuhu na obi nkeka ‘ No one prepares the food for another to eat.- George Ayittey, Washington, DC