Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Proverbs and Wise saying of my People: The Nandi of Kenya

The wealth of a language is measured in the amount of wisdom stored in proverbs and wise sayings. Over time, I have grown so fond of the wisdom of my mother language (Nandi) and I would like to document for posterity the proverbs and wise sayings of the language I love and help promote its wider usage.

This collection is in no way exhaustive. Neither is it my exclusive piece of writing. Some of these gems have been captured by my sister-in-law, Dr. Rose Cheptoo Ruto. Other pieces of writings are scattered all over and I seek to collect them in a single depository. Right here in this blog.

In my knowledge of the Nandi language, the proverbs may be classified into those that "warn/advise" AGAINST and those that "encourage" one to DO.

To understand this, one needs to appreciate the Nandi grammar. The language is very rich. The Nandi grammar is built around a fluid interchange between the VSO or VOS (Verb, Object, Subject). Furthermore, Nandi is one of a few languages that has what would be called "directional verbs", those verbs that tell the direction of action.

Now, back to the negation. "ma(at)" is used as a general negation in Nandi. It also represents the "negative singular". Other forms are "mee", "moo (plural form)". A number of proverbs which caution against doing something are built around this etymology.

Nandi proverbs are built around many central themes. The underlying concept is promotion of the community and social responsibility. Some proverbs are animal-centred, mainly around the cow (a very important animal to the Nandi economy). Others are centred around the cosmos. Some are built around taboos.

Proverbs 

Akot ngo samis muria kobo koot ne bo

 Even if a rat is "bad (rotten)", it belongs where it belongs. I other words, no "bad" can disqualify one from belonging to "own" family. 

Ma ki namei beny biriir buch
This one translates to "One can't hold (or touch) a piece of (red) meat "just like that". Ideally, it implies that if you participate in doing something, you need to share in its rewards. In the case of meat, since most people slaughtered their own animals, they needed help to skin the animal. If a neighbour passed by and helped hold the animal while the owner is skinning it, that neighbour who has "held" (or touched) the "meat" must be given a piece of it!
Ma kii ndoee sogoldai
Sogoldai (pl Sogoldaiik) is the Nandi word for spy or a reconnaissance troop. This is a classical "warning" which translates to either one of these two meanings. First "You MUST never go ahead/preceed ahead/in front of the advance/reconnaissance/spy team" .

In times of war, the Nandi arranged themselves into an advance team of spies. Once the advance team presented a credible report on the knowledge of the "enemy" weaknesses and strengths, the army would then advance. You would have a raid arranged in three battalions: The advance or swift troops made of tactical combatants, the huge "visible" army called "Oltimdo" and the tail army of cleaners who secure the rear end.

This proverb therefore calls for caution, kind of saying don't rush to things you know little about. Learn and survey first, investigate and analysis the SWOT etc. It calls for patience and calculation.

Nda ngee baei Kipkeelat kee baitooi nebo mununwo



...To be continued....

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