Akeuto kamalile abanyabwilo. (Kara).
Haraka haraka iliwamaliza watu wa Bwilo. (Swahili).
Plus vite, plus vite et ce fut la fin des habitants de Bwilo. (Français).
Faster, faster has finished off the people of Bwilo. (English).
Background, Explanation, History and Everyday Use
Bwilo is a small islet (very small island) near the bigger one called Ukerewe within the great Lake Victoria. Though the distance between Bwilo and Ukerewe is small, the people of Bwilo were told not to swim as to cross from one place to the other one. Swimming might appear the faster, easier way to travel through this environment, but though the lake is looking safe, it is in fact changing rapidly and dangerous waves may occur. This Kara proverb accounts for the fact that many did not listen to the experience and wisdom of others and as a result they died in their stubbornness, lack of patience and excessive self-confidence.
Short cuts do prove to be very dangerous. In the 1990’s, the ferry boat MV Bukoba sank into the Lake Victoria carrying with it hundreds of passengers to the depths of the lake. It has been consequently proved that security measures had not been respected, doubtlessly because of the prospect of fast, fat and easy profits from some of the operators. To bypass prudence and caution can be very costly indeed.
Information on the Kara Language in Tanzania is as follows: 86,000 (1987). Lake Victoria southeast shore, Ukerewe Island, between Zanaki [zak] and Kerewe [ked]. A few in Mwanza. Alternate names: Regi. Dialects: Lexical similarity: 81% with Jita [jit], 80% with Kwaya [kya]. See Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.
This Tanzanian proverb calls to prudence, caution and also readiness to bear with patience the necessary hardships in order to achieve one’s goals. In many occasions, Jesus warns his disciples of the temptations to bypass the cost of being a true disciple. For instance in Luke 6: 46-49: “Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a person building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
A vivid personification of the temptation for the easy way is found in Peter when he refused to accept hardships which would befall on Jesus as to open the way to salvation for the whole humankind. Matthew 16: 21-26 reads as follows: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of human beings.’ Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any person would come after me, let him or her deny oneself and take up his or her cross and follow me. For whoever would save one’s life will lose it, and whoever loses one’s life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a person if one gains the whole world and forfeits one’s life? Or what shall a person give in return for his or her life?’”
This example may stand as an echo to Jesus’ more general teaching found in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
Within recent years, a Swahili word was specially coined for referring to the process of destroying the quality of a product so as to obtain fast and easy money (kuchakachua). For instance when referring to fuels, it may mean that the original purchased petroleum has been mixed with some other fluids so that a larger quantity may be sold at the usual price. This kind of activity may benefit for a while a particular individual, but ultimately proves to be very damaging for vehicles and also for the local economy.
It is thought that the need to coin a new word spreads naturally from the commonness of the experience within a particular society. Another indication may be found in the widespread use of the term “fake” as to refer to a product that looks like a good, quality, genuine one but does not pass the test of time and of strength. Fake products are by definition attractive and cheap, but they are not to be trusted as they may even be dangerous as in the case of medicines. They ultimately damage users and the local economy.
An African proverb says Shoulders are not higher than the head. If Peter himself was tempted by the easy way, we should not be surprises that at times church and religious leaders themselves tempted in similar ways. Temptations are all the more acute when the environment itself seems to encourage easy but dangerous corrupted practices. Jesus continues to be a very challenging master, and many of us may better feel concerned when he asks “Are you really free? (John 8: 31-33).
This proverb is No. 29 in Methali za Kara (Tanzania). Collected, Explained and Translated into Swahili by Katekista Joseph Nkumbulwa. Compiled and Translated into English and into French by Father Pascal Durand, MAfr. Mwanza, Tanzania: Privately Printed. May, 2011. This is one booklet in the series of Endangered African Proverbs Collections. It is posted as an Ebook on our website at: http://afriprov.org/index.php/resources/e-books.html
Some efforts to meditate and contemplate on the inside of things and of people may be consulted on http://www.pascalbcd.over-blog.com (in French), or http://www.pascalbcdeng.over-blog.com (in English).
|Father Pascal Durand, MAfr
P.O. Box 475 Geita, Tanzania
Tel.: (Tanzania): 00255-783-078985
|Catechist Joseph Nkumbulwa
P.O. Box 296 Geita, Tanzania
Tel.: (Tanzania): 00255-688- 065791
Photographs selected by:
Professor Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Fine Arts
P.O. Box 43844