Sunday, January 3, 2010

Songhai Proverbs

Kabu hinka non gu care nyumey.
Two hands wash themselves.

This proverb speaks of the desire and ability to do one's part. It often takes two, each doing one's part to the best of one's ability, to accomplish the task together.

Amaana wo malku no, ndu a nin i gu a nwa no.
Confidence is like the cooked head of a sheep, a unique dish reserved for special occasions. If the head is cooked well, a person will eat it.

As the dish that which is not fully cooked is not expected to be eaten, so it is for the person who makes a promise and tries to make it seem as it was no big deal. He wants others to believe that he should not expected to keep his promise if the circumstances did not fall to his advantage, it was not his fault, it was not his responsibility this proverb is used in jest when teasing friends, as the subject is a very serious one indeed.

Haro bi su moru konu.
Clean water does not stink.

In English we have a proverb with a similar meaning...where there is smoke, there is fire.

Man no hansi gu konde jeni?
Where has the dog taken the millet stalk?

Nigerien dogs do not eat millet stalks; they do not like them. It is like saying to someone, "If you do not like it, why take it?" One could say this to a Songhai man who wants to marry a woman of another people group, as the Songhai would never consider marrying anyone other than another Songhai.

Ciiri su nu bon sifa honji la.
Salt can not glorify itself in the sauce.

This expression speaks to the issue of pride and how important one believes himself to be. One should not praise oneself; it should be left for others to do. One can not accomplish things alone.

Bundu mu jiri hari la, a su ba gu te kare.
Even if a log floats in water for a long time, it will never become a crocodile.

There are some things that are impossible to accomplish, no matter how long or how hard one tries. The missionary will never become an African Songhai, no matter how long one lives in Niger, how often one wears traditional clothing, or how well one can speak Songhai.

Isa gu ba da gu ba tontoni.
The river is too large and it wants to become bigger.

Even though the river is full to overflowing, it still wants more water. This proverb talks about insatiable craving of more and more, never having enough, never being satisfied.

Hey kan ka bon futa nya ga kulu gu ka bon kana nya ga.
Unlucky or bad things come to one's mother; lucky or good things will also come to her.

One should never laugh at the misfortunes of another, as the same misfortunes might come to one's own house also.

Yo gu bu dey, a manu hangasu.
It is true that the camel will eventually die, but he will never stretch out and lay flat on his back.

Some things are inconceivable and, impossible in one's life. There are also some things that are sure to come, such as death and taxes.

Hay kan fumbu kulu nongu doy.
All Things that stink will rise to the top.

Evil things planned and done in secret will eventually be known to all.

Nda ni bisa boru ize, ni bisa boru.
If you exceed the number of children that another person has, you are better than that person.

Songhai believe that the man who has many children is richer than another who has fewer children. This man is also more respected than other men within the community. The proverb refers to his character as well as his material possessions. It is a saying that generally sums up and closes an argument by stating, "I have it and you do not, so that proves my point that I am better than you."

Sasa me gu keyna ndu aljam.
The mouth of a sparrow is too small for the bit of a horse.

This proverb speaks to excesses. It would be used to tell a parent that his discipline is too much or in excess for the small child. It would also be used to insult someone as an American would use the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." By this he would mean that the bad thing that has been done to him means nothing, one can not hurt him.

1 comment:

  1. Love this, let's bring this to the masses, that the black man may know his history and be proud of where he comes from