African Proverb of The Month
Tata ye mama bakinu zinga, zaya ntalu ya kwanga. (Kongo)
Fahamu bei ya kwanga wakati baba na mama wangali hai. (Swahili)
Sache le prix d’une chikwangue pendant que papa et maman sont encore vivants. (French)
Know the price of a Kwanga while dad and mom are still alive. (English)
Background, Explanation, History, Meaning and Everyday Use
Kwanga or Chikwangue is very important Bakongo food in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo, made from cassava flour and wrapped in wide forest leaves, then boiled in a pot for several hours. Kwanga can be eaten with fish and meat as well as with dry groundnuts. Today Kwanga is sold along the roads of Kinshasa and Brazzaville for a very little price. But it was not the same during our forefathers’ time where no money was used and where each farmer could concentrate on growing crops for his own consumption. During those days, for someone to get a Kwanga you need to grow cassava first. According to a local farmer, it will takes between six months to one year before cassava to be harvested. Even though they were no money during our forefathers’ time, you will agree that there must be many steps which involve a lot of work, skills and commitment before getting Kwanga on your dining table — steps that indeed need courage, commitment, expertise, etc. All these steps that what represent the “price” in this Kikongo proverb.
The Bible tells us in Mark: 6:3 that at one particular time Jesus Christ was a carpenter. Where do you think he learns carpentry works? No doubt from his earthly father Joseph who was also a carpenter. Being a great teacher, Jesus Christ set an example to both his disciples and listeners including us. See also John 20:21 and John 14:16. “The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these and God will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). See also Matthew 13:55.
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
According to Kongo wisdom, young people learn many things while their parents are still alive. This would prepare them to take care of their own family. Failure to do so would give them a miserable life full of hunger. This proverb teaches us to learn when we still have the opportunity. For example, after gaining their independence most African countries fell into hardship due to mismanagement, corruption and bad leadership and sometime civil war — situations that were not there when countries were under their colonial rulers. For instance, countries like Angola, DRC, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan with promising economies during the colonial reign now find themselves in ruin. Can these countries be the result of lack of skills and knowledge? Can we say they did not learn from their rulers?
In connection to this proverb, let us put emphasis on the “Kamati ya Utafiti” Research Group based in Ndoleleji, Tanzania, led by Father Donald Sybertz, M.M., a Maryknoll missionary from the USA. The group really enjoys working alongside this retired missionary. The same example applies to the “African Proverbs Working Group” based in Nairobi, Kenya and coordinated by Father Joseph Healey, M.M. Members are always asking questions. See material on the African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Website at http://www.afriprov.org.
African church is not spared either. We have welcomed expatriate missionaries from Europe and America for a long time now and most beautiful churches were built under their leadership. Up to now we have places where the only nice building is a church built by missionaries, where everyone want to go for a photograph. Apart from making a wakeup call to learners, this Kongo Proverb also urges parents or teachers to make sure that their children learn everything before they die. Let us open our hearts and let someone benefit from knowledge, skills, experience and connections that we have.
NOTE: This proverb is No. 44 in Kongo Proverbs by Elysee Meta and Allan Babunga. A work in collaboration with the African Proverbs Working Group. Nairobi, Kenya: Privately Printed, May, 2012. This is one booklet in the series of Endangered African Proverbs Collections. It will be posted as an eBook on our website at: http://afriprov.org/index.php/resources/e-books.html
Mr. Allan Babunga (together with Elysee Meta)
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