|Inyumba yinoga peyina vanu. (Bena)
Nyumba inapendeza ikiwa na watu. (Swahili)
Une maison est belle s’il y a des gens. (French)
A house is beautiful if it has people. (English)
Bena (Tanzania) Proverb
Background, Meaning and Everyday Use
This proverb talks about a man who was rich and owned a luxurious house. Unfortunately, he did not know how to live and socialize with people. The Wabena Ethnic Group around 1,322,000 people use this proverb. This ethnic group is one of the Bantu Ethnic Groups in Tanzania. They like to live in the mountains and in places with rivers with a lot of water. The Bena people use stories, dances, idioms, songs, games and various sayings in teaching, criticizing and educating the community, especially their younger generation. Inyumba yinoga peyina vanu means (A house is beautiful if it has people) is one of the proverbs they use.
It happened that in their village of Navalonge Swela, there was a Mr. Nyongise, a rich man who built many housing estates. He had a large area, enough entertainment grounds and a place to raise animals. People really liked the houses and went to plan them so that they could live and others could do their business. However, unfortunately, people did not manage to live in those houses; they stayed for a short time and then left. No one could stay long. The houses remained empty, the locals were surprised and wanted to know what was going on.
Fortunately, when a tenant was going out, he passed by saying that this old man is disrespectful, very annoying and wants the tenants to live by doing what he wants. He is also a drunkard and a person who loves luxury so “we have decided to leave because we are afraid that his behaviour will destroy our children.”
After a while old Nyongise spent all his assets. He was left with nothing, he gave up and looked for a way to demolish his house and move to another area because he was ashamed in front of the villagers due to his pride.
Locals and well-wishers approached him, advised and encouraged him to stop his bad behaviour and cooperate well with others. The old man agreed and apologized, he promised to change his behaviour and that he would help the poor since he had a lot of wealth. He fulfilled his promise to help the poor.
Then the locals after seeing this said Inyumba yinoga peyina vanu that means A house is beautiful if it has people. This is how this proverb started and continues to be used until now.
This proverb is compared to many rich people who forget that their wealth comes from God, so when they have wealth they look down on others. These people are the same as old Nyongise who abused them, despised them and refused to have a relationship because of his wealth. People laughed at them because in the end he ended up being poor like the others.
This proverb teaches to love, to care for all people and to respect them, whether they are rich or poor.
Luke 14:23: “And the lord said unto the servant, go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
Isaiah 32:18: “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”
2 Chronicles 8:2: “Solomon rebuilt the villages that Hiram had given him, and settled Israelites in them.”
Deuteronomy 8.12, 14: “Look, when you have eaten and are full, and build a beautiful house and live in it, then your heart should not rise, and forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.”
Contemporary Use And Religious Application
This Bena Proverb encourages all people to keep and to maintain their good traditions. We need to build cooperation so that we can live as one family. That is why the Catholic Church today emphasizes the importance of participating in Small Christian Communities (SCCs). It is a good place to meet, teach and help each other. Children are helped to grow in good Christian traditions and customs. Let us work together as brothers and sisters.
Sister Felisia Mbifile, SCSF
Rev. Zakaria Kashinje, OSA
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania