|Ng’hwi ninghi jigangaluchaga. (Sukuma).
Kuni nyingi hukesha. (Swahili).
De nombreux morceaux de bois éclairent toute la nuit.(French).
Many pieces of firewood light the whole night. (English).
Sukuma (Tanzania) Proverb
Background, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Synodal Process invites all Catholic Church members to walk together through in culturation in which we get various values from ethnic groups that are found in many African countries.
Tanzania is an African country that has 128 languages. The Sukuma Ethnic Group with its language Sukuma has the most speakers in the country. It has a population of “8,130,000 increasing” according to the 2016 Ethnologue: Languages of the World that makes 16 percent of the country’s total population. There are few speakers in the cities. 88 % are in the traditional country areas.
The people in this Sukuma Ethnic Group usually impart teachings to one another in their daily lives by using proverbs, sayings, riddles and the like. They encourage their members enough to walk together in unity for managing their economic, social and cultural activities by using a multiplicity of proverbs.Many pieces of firewood light the whole night is just one of a number of them that they use in their daily lives.
The above proverb started from people who were adding firewood to a cooking stove. There were people who were cooking food for dancers in Mwamadulu Village. They had to cook such food for the whole night because they wanted to finish such work that same night so that they could have time for watching the dance during the day.
Nevertheless, their pieces of firewood were almost gone when it was still night, and they had not finished the cooking. They set out to collect so many pieces of firewood that they could cook such food all the night long.
The firewood cutters, in fact, went and collected as many pieces of firewood as they could use to cook overnight and managed to cook all the food. When they saw this, they realized that many pieces of firewood cook food speedily and can be used overnight. That is why they began to invite one another to unite and work as a group by saying that Many pieces of firewood light the whole night.
Such a proverb teaches people on how to work in unity for fulfilling well their economic, social, cultural and spiritual activities in their daily lives. It inspires them enough to unite and walk together for working out easily their societal problems in their families.
Acts 4:32: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”
Galatians 6:2-3: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-14: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.Now the body is not a single part, but many.”
Exodus 18:25-26: “He picked out able men from all Israel and put them in charge of the people as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. They rendered decisions for the people in all routine cases. The more difficult cases they referred to Moses, but all the lesser cases they settled themselves.”
Contemporary Use And Religious Application
This proverb is important in the Synodal Process because of imparting ideas to us about walking together in unity with all the members of the church. It instills in bishops, priests, and all Christians teachings on how to be united together as a community of the Body of Christ in fulfilling their responsibilities. They can do so by walking together and helping one another in all the Synodal Processes so that they may be successful in spreading the good news to people with whom they live through their practical daily lives.
It is compared to the Small Christian Community members who pray, read the Bible in unity and help each other in their lives. These people gather together to read the Gospel and share their ideas fordiscovering what Jesus tells them in their practical daily lives.
This Sukuma proverb also encourages them to maintain their unity enough to answer the key questions that are needed in the Synodal Process. They can manage doing so by helping one another together because of their mutual understanding in fulfilling their missionary work which they received through baptism, that is,spreading the good news to the people with whom they live in their societies.
These people in Small Christian Communities resemble the many pieces of firewood that were used all night by cooks until they cooked the food that was needed. They too have the unity of many people who walk together in harmony with the whole church on the way to God until they inherit the heavenly Kingdom. That is why when the time of the weekly gathering approaches, they invite one another to attend the SCC meetings by saying pieces of firewood light the whole night.
NOTE: This proverb is the 28th Sukuma proverb, saying or riddle in our “African Proverb of the Month” Series since we started in 1998. See also
No. 1,014 – NG’HWI NINGHI JIGANGALUCHAGA.
in the Sukuma Legacy Project https://sukumalegacy.org
It includes Swahili and English translations.
See also the Sukuma proverbs in the:
Nanetya Foundation: Ethnic Stories in Mother Tongues Website
Text and photos:
Rev. Joseph G. Healey, MM
P.O. Box 43058
00100 Nairobi, Kenya
0723-362-993 (Safaricom, Kenya)
973-216-4997 (AT&T, USA)
WhatsApp: 1+ 973-216-4997