Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
There are very few Ewe proverbs that deal specifically with the concept of reconciliation and peace. However this Ewe proverb alludes to the context or environment necessary for reconciliation and peace. Chickens are fond of scratching the dung hill for food. This heap of garbage contains all kinds of things including chicken bones. A chicken that keeps digging deep into the dunghill sometimes comes across old bones and particularly chicken bones that may be more common in the garbage. This alludes to the fact that a person who keeps following bad issues may end up finding some painful reminders of their own destiny. The thigh bone of the mother hen is a reminder of the painful destiny of a person who keeps following bad issues from the past. Sometimes it is better to leave certain painful things to the past and look for better things in the future. One moral lesson is that if you want peace avoid digging too much into the bad and painful incidences of the past; they may only bring tears and sorrow. While selective understanding of past mistakes regarding war, conflict and division can be a learning experience, it is unhealthy to dwell too much on the past.
“But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).
“But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead'” (Matthew 8:22).
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
This Ewe proverb can apply to many situations in different countries today where conflicts seem to have a never-ending momentum, for example, in Kenya after the December, 2007 presidential elections in which the confusion in announcing the results led to chaos, death and the destruction of a lot of property in some parts of the country. It is now debated whether there should be a blanket amnesty to all the people involved or whether these people should be prosecuted and punished. Those who are insisting on prosecution and punishment may have the assumption that their opponents may be the victims. Paradoxically like the proverbial chicken if they keep scratching the dunghill of this issue too much they may become victims of it themselves. Some issues are just too painful to be mentioned repeatedly. Revisiting them may only bring sorrow and tears. Sometimes it is better to leave these issues in the past. Learn lessons from them, yes, but then move on into the future.
NOTE: This proverb is No. 40 in a forthcoming booklet Collection of 100 Ewe Proverbs.
Professor Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Fine Arts
P.O. Box 43844