|Vaviri vakachenjera vanogocha nhunzi. (Manyika)
Gwiji wawili wanaweza kuchoma inzi. (Kiswahili)
Deux génies rôtiront une mouche facilement. (French)
Two geniuses will successfully roast a fly. (English)
Manyika, (Zimbabwe, Mozambique) Proverb
Background, Meaning And Everyday Use
The Manyika ethnic language is a dialect of the Shona language, spoken by the Manyika people. The majority of Manyika come from the eastern region of Zimbabwe. The language is widely spoken in Manicaland and in some areas of Manica Province in the neighboring Mozambique . The Nyanga, Nyamaropa, Nyatate and surrounding regions have a different tone and shaping of words compared to those from the Buhera and Bocha. There are inherent cultural norms in each of the sub-regions inhabited by the Manyika.
According to Manyika traditions, the afterlife does not happen in another world like the Christian heaven and hell, but as another form of existence in the world here and now. Their attitude towards the dead ancestors is very similar to the one given to the living parents and grandparents. They believed in ancestral intercessors and had traditional religions. With the coming of the missionaries, Christianity brought the ideology that Jesus was universal intercessor that which the Manyika people embraced.
Totems (mutupo) identify the different clans among the ethnic groups that historically made up the dynasties of the ancient civilization. The identification by totem has very important ramifications at traditional ceremonies such as the burial ceremony. For example, a person initiating the burial of a deceased must have the same totem as the deceased otherwise he runs the risk of paying a fine to the family of the deceased.
Proverbs are used as a common medium of expressing collective wisdom in a community. It reveals their system of values within their culture. The above proverb is used daily to encourage people to come together as a community to reach a common goal. The proverb teaches us that when people work together they can achieve any problem that faces the community. As they say, “When people come together great things happen.”
Some regions of Zimbabwe have a high population of insects that provide protein for the communities. Manicaland has the lowest population of insects. Species which aremore popular and widely consumed are termites (ishwa), chaffer beetles (mandere), crickets (gurwe) and grasshoppers (mhashu). Most of these insects are consumed in a roasted or dry form which prolongs their shelf life. They can also be consumed as a crunchy snack or as a meal, fried or cooked in a spicy sauce then served as a relish with sadza that is a thickened porridge made from sorghum and maize.
This proverb developed from the tradition of consuming roasted insects. This is special and everyone wishes to have a share of the delicacies. It expresses that cohesion enables people to do the impossible because there is a strong will. With strong bonds and teamwork everything works well.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone? And if a person prevails against a person that is alone, two shall withstand that person; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Contemporary Use And Religion Application
There is a saying: “Men are all the same. When their beards burn, they help each other to extinguish the fire.” It’s the spirit of communion and solidarity that the Manyika culture celebrates. Manyika people believe that all members of the community should have a common front in confronting challenges that threaten their cohesion. The system of working together as a group has brought great achievements in many sectors; social, economic, political and religious. The Christian Churches have played a great role by creating small groups that help people and communities to grow spiritually, socially and economically together. This Small Christian Communities Model of Church in Eastern Africais described at:
NOTE: This proverb is No 98 in a collection of 100 Manyika Proverbs and Wise Sayings by Elias Bushiri Elie, in collaboration with African Proverbs Working Group Nairobi, Kenya.
Text and photo by:
Elias Bushiri Elie