REPORT OF THE MEETING OF PEOPLE INTERESTED IN AFRICAN PROVERBS
Urban Ministry Support Group (UMSG) Office
Saturday, 12 May, 2001
The following were the agenda of the meeting:
- Short reports by participants on their present research and writing on Africa proverbs, stories and sayings.
- Evaluation of, and plans for, the African Proverbs, Sayings, and Stories Website and E-mail Discussion List.
- Future of the African Proverbs Regional Research and Resource Centers such as Hekima College, Nairobi, Kenya.
- How to better distribute (circulate, sell, etc.) the books, booklets, CD-ROM, etc. on African Proverbs, Saying and Stories that we have produced.
- Any other agenda.
The following people attended:
- Joseph Kariuki Muriithi (Secretary of the Meeting)
P.O. Box 41512
- Rev. Joseph Healey, M.M. (Chairperson of the Meeting)
P.O. Box 867
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
- Samuel Macharia Mbogo
P.O. Box 51
- Pastor Hudson M. Kuyanda
Riverside Baptist Ministries
P.O. Box 66698
- Stanley Ndichu Mbochu
P.O. Box 40
- John Wanyeki Mwangi
P.O. Box 564
- Professor Monica Mweseli
Chairperson — Dept. of Literature and Linguistics
University of Nairobi
P.O. Box 6374
- Edwin Shikuhzi
- Ochieng Thomas
P.O. Box 21205
- Sam Wanyoike
P.O. Box 68191
- Michael Mutinda
P.O. Box 53165
- Sr. Maria Rosa Ballini, DSP
Paulines Publications Africa
P. O. Box 49026
Telephone: 47202/3; Fax: 442097
- Charles Nandain
P.O. Box 60954
- Patrick Ngaira
P. O. Box 52153
- Isaac Macharia
P.O. Box 58380
- Pastor Michael Wanyama
Calvary Evangelistic Fellowship Church
P.O. Box 2275, KNH
- Evans K. Nyakundi
Hekima College Library
P.O. Box 21215
- Pacificah Okemwa
Religious Studies Dept.
P.O. Box 43844
- Dr. Kithaka wa Mberia
Dept. of Linguistics
University of Nairobi
P.O. Box 30197
- Dr. Gerald J. Wanjohi
P.O. Box 32440
- Nicholas Adongo
P.O. Box 16406
E-mail: nadongo@umsg or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Imbumi Makuku
P.O. Box 60875
- George Liboyi
A summary of the proceedings is as follows:
- The meeting started with a word of prayer in the Kikuyu language by Dr. Gerald. J. Wanjohi.
- Father Joseph Healey presented a brief history of the African Proverbs Project (APP). He said that the project is today seven years old having begun in 1994. It was started by Christian Churches to map (survey) the African continent’s 54 countries by way of collecting, studying and interpreting its proverbs. He said that currently there are about 3 million collected/published proverbs and very many uncollected ones. The following are the milestones in the history of APP:
(i). Conferences of researchers and scholars interested in African proverbs were held in Mozambique and South Africa.
(ii). A CD-ROM of collections, studies and bibliographies of African Proverbs entitled The Wisdom of African Proverbs was produced by Global Mapping International (GMI). The CD- ROM contains 28,000 proverbs and the equivalent of 70 printed books.
(iii). The African Proverbs Book Series was started with first five interesting books printed: Ethiopian Wisdom –– Proverbs of the Oromo People; Hearing and Keeping –– Akan (Ghana) proverbs; Lugbara Wisdom (Uganda Proverbs); The Voice of the People— Proverbs of the Basotho; and Embracing the Baobab Tree — The African Proverb in the 21st Century. These books are also contained in the CD-ROM mentioned above.
(iv). Regional Research and Resource Centres were set up in four countries: Hekima College, Nairobi, Kenya is the Centre for Eastern Africa; University of South Africa in South Africa; University of Legon in Ghana; and Abidjan, Ivory Coast the center targeting Francophone countries. The purpose of these research and resource centres is to encourage people to collect, research and write proverbs especially “endangered proverbs” with the aim of preserving them. “Endangered Proverbs Collections” are proverbs from languages of African peoples whose number of speakers is not many. Currently six collections of endangered proverbs have been published (four from Tanzania, one from Kenya and one from Somalia). The centres are also useful for information on special collections that are proverbs from well-known languages (languages with large populations of speakers) in Africa. Father Healey reported that after organizing the conferences, preparing the CD-ROM and printing the books, some of the remaining funds were given to the Research and Resource Centers to cater for work on other endangered proverbs and special collections.
(v). The last milestone of the APP was setting up a website and an E-mail Discussion List. This idea was first mooted by Rev. John Shane, then with Urban Ministry Support Group (UMSG). The idea behind the website and E-mail Discussion List was to facilitate quicker communication with the people all over the world interested in African proverbs by providing a forum for people to share interests and experiences.
- George Liboyi of the UMSG gave a brief statement about the activities of UMSG. They have a project on street children and a good library. UMSG facilitates many activities of the APP like the website and the E-mail discussion list and hosts meetings.
- Sister Maria Rosa gave a brief note on Paulines Publications Africa and its partnership with the APP. Paulines Publications is an activity of the Daughters of St. Paul, an international religious congregation that serves the continent of Africa by publishing on the needs of the continent. It was started in Uganda and today the publishing division for the whole of Africa is headquartered in Nairobi. It has branches in 11 other countries. Its greatest achievement is the publication of the African Bible. Its partnership with APP is in the distribution of materials on African proverbs — books such as The Wisdom and Philosophy of the Gikuyu Proverbs by Gerald. J. Wanjohi andTowards An African Narrative Theology by Joseph G. Healey and Donald F. Sybertz and the CD-ROM.
- Dr. Gerald J. Wanjohi reported on his research on the Special Collection of Kikuyu (Kenya) proverbs which will be printed in two month time with the title: Under One Roof: Kikuyu Proverbs Consolidated. He also presented the methodology that he used on this work, which is using the already published collections, soliciting proverbs from listeners of Kikuyu radio stations and from Kikuyu books and newspapers.
- Evans K. Nyakundi gave a presentation on Gusii (Kenya) proverbs as an example of “endangered proverbs.” He has compiled 400 Gusii proverbs. 80 proverbs in Gusii language with English translation and a scriptural parallel have already been bound together into a first edition (May, 2001). Endangered proverbs appear in limited editions usually in photocopy form and are sent especially to libraries.
- Father Joseph Healey reported on the latest research on Sukuma, the largest language in Tanzania, being carried out by Father Don Sybertz, M.M., Father George Cotter, M.M. and a research team of elders. They are preparing a series of booklets of Sukuma Proverbs based on the “Verb Root.” The Format of Each Proverb Alphabetically by Verb Root is:
(i). Original Sukuma Proverb.
(ii). Explanation in Sukuma.
(iii). Swahili Translation.
(iv). Explanation in Swahili.
(v). English Translation.
(vi). Explanation in English including the Christian teaching.
(vii). Biblical Parallels.
(viii). Dictionary Root Words.
Father Healey also reported on the latest research on modern African sayings especially of African youth in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
- Prof. Monica Mweseli shared her work on Bukusu (Kenya) Proverbs. She has collected 371 proverbs since 1997 and has been working on their English translation. Her greatest fear has been on how to publish them.
- Father Healey shared information on sources of funds for publishing. He asked participants to send proposals by E-mail to him at: JGHealey@aol.com. He said major grants are used to print books on proverbs of special collections and there are subsidies to help keep the prices down. Smaller grants are used to publish limited editions of “Endangered Proverbs Collections.” He told participants that there are institutions connected to the African Proverbs Project that help to provide funds. He also brought to the attention of participants a new book, Kamusi ya Methali, whose review was in the East African Standard of 12 May, 2001. The book has is the largest collection of Swahili proverbs so far – 2,138 Swahili Proverbs.
- Nicholas Adongo, who offers technical support to APP’s “African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Website” on a partially voluntary basis, demonstrated to the participants how to read the “African Proverb of the Month” posted on the Internet every month. He gave the participants the URL or electronic address for the website as: http://www.afriprov.org. The current proverb of the month for May, 2001 is from the Edo language, Nigeria. Nicholas also explained to the participants how they could subscribe to the E-mail Discussion List that is an electronic forum for sharing experiences on African proverbs. For any one interested in subscribing write an E-mail message to:
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Subject: New Subscriber
Body: subscribe proverbs-list
- Participants were asked to give suggestions on how best to distribute, circulate or sell what APP already has produced and the following suggestions came up:
(i). Add a section on the “up-coming projects” on the website.
(ii). Contact the newspapers especially the education supplement in the Daily Nation on Mondays as a news feature.
(iii). Target University literature departments where oral literature is one of the key subjects taught.
Arising from these observations participants felt there was a need to meet more frequently (every six months) and a committee called “The Kenya Planning Committee On The African Proverbs Project” was set up to organize this. The following participants were proposed to constitute this committee that will plan for another meeting:
- Prof. Monica Mweseli (convener)
- Charles Nandain
- Dr. Kithaka wa Mberia
- Dr. Gerald J. Wanjohi
- Joseph Kariuki (Secretary)
- Two new projects were identified. First was the African Proverbs Calendar for the year 2002. It was suggested that each calendar month would have an African proverb and a biblical quotation. Participants are to look for a benefactor to provide funds to pay for its production. The Textbook Centre as well as other leading bookshops were proposed as potential distributors since they are more frequented by people interested in educational resources. Dr. Wanjohi said he would approach them on this matter.
The second project identified was a video. Ukweli Video was said to be interested in producing a video on APP and related proverbs concerns. The only problem there was that there was no one to coordinate the project. Charles Nandain who has some experience in writing scripts for video volunteered to help in this area. The Daughters of St. Paul Congregation who use video and films in their work was also given as second suggestion through its Paulines Publications and Audio-Visual Section.
- Matters arising:
(i). Participants proposed the need to introduce proverbs to schools through booklets for young generations.
(ii). Having small collections of African proverbs from different languages and different countries in Africa on a particular theme such as “Women”. Participants’ attention was drawn to the existence of such collections as the book Source Of All Evil by Mineke Schipper. A proposal was put forward to do a review of this book and publish it on the “African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Website.”
- The meeting ended successfully with a Gusii prayer by Evans Nyakundi.
Joseph Kariuki (Secretary)