Mboka ezangaka mwasi kitoko te. (Lingala)
Kijiji hakikosi kamwe msichana mrembo. (Swahili)
Il ne manque jamais une belle fille dans un village. (French)
A village never lacks a beautiful young woman. (English)
Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
Lingala is a Bantu language spoken throughout the northwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and a large part of the Republic of the Congo as well as to some degree in Angola and the Central African Republic. It is one of the four official languages of DRC. The Bangala (“river people”) are the people who live alongside the Congo River; they are known to be good fishermen and women and hunters. Men in this community really need women on their side since they are the ones to take care of the children, to plant, to look for firewood and water, to weed and to harvest the crops in the farm. In a Bangala community a woman is really a helper and a long-term partner to a man. The role played by a woman can also be seen in other Bantu’s ritual ceremonies such as birth, circumcision, wedding and death where women make sure that each and every one who attends the ceremony is satisfied by the cooking and dancing for the audience.
When looking for a woman to become his wife, a man is warned to make his choice wisely. Sometimes a Bangala man could leave his own village or community and go to the nearby village in search of his future wife. Does this mean that the number of beautiful women is so limited? What are the qualities that they are looking for in a woman? By looking at all these duties and tasks performed by African women, every man in Bangala community would be glad to marry the right woman. But African proverbs seem not to recognize these beautiful creatures of God. Our African Proverbs Working Committee struggles to find proverbs that support women.
Proverbs 10:30-31: “A capable wife (woman) who can find her value? Her value is far more than that of corals.”
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
Beauty is more than physical appearance. The beautiful woman that this Lingala proverb is refers to includes good human qualities plus virtues and good morals. Who is this woman whom both the proverb and scripture talks about? She must be precious, one among many! All over the world people just celebrated two major days related to women and their beauty. On 14 February the world celebrated Valentine’s Day a day believed by many to be lovers’ day. Women in the streets of Nairobi and other major town in the world were loaded with bouquets of roses as a sign of appreciation from their loved ones. On 8 March the world celebrated the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. Roads were full of manifestations and campaigns to support women. Is this enough to show our appreciation to people we call our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters? In many African communities a woman is not seen as important, yet they are caregivers and food providers while in other communities they build shelters to their families. Often in the political scene and in the civil service women perform even better than men.
But rape and other crimes against women and girls have been increasing day by day. In 2010 alone, more than 1,000 women were reportedly raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo within a period of less than one month. Other African countries are not spared. In Kenya, a country considered by many to be a peace hub, reports show that a woman is still raped every 30 minutes. Is this our appreciation to them?
Women in Africa have been accused by African men of giving up to their African customs to follow the latest foreign music and clothes styles. Skin tights, transparent and short skirts are now seen to be African women’s preferred fashion. Their African attires that could nicely cover their bodies are no longer attractive to them. According to men, this makes women so seductive and thus not to trusted anymore. To the Lingala people beauty means good conduct and aptitude to perform all the duties allocated to a woman named above. Through this proverb I would like to urge all of you to sympathize with our women. Let us focus on their good human qualities and morals rather than their weaknesses. To you women let you remain beautiful inside as you are outside and thus make not only our men happy but also our God in heaven. Let you be one among a million.
Mr. Allan Babunga
P. O. Box 104263
00101 Nairobi, Kenya
Cellphone: 254- 721749795
Photographs selected by:
Professor Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Fine Arts
P.O. Box 43844