Lessons from Africa

Lessons from Africa

The Samburu tribe of northern Kenya have a wealth of stories and proverbs which have been passed down through oral tradition for generation to generation. Even while technology encroaches on their traditional territories and lifestyle, there is a richness and a relevance that is quite contemporary.

I was introduced to these stories in this book, Proverbs of the Samburu, a gift from a friend in Nairobi.

Some proverbs have their parallels in western sayings, perhaps not coincidentally: for example, Maarem muny te leheni obo katare. A rhino cannot gore me under the same tree in two instances. Or….once bitten, twice shy?

How about this: Tinilo nenya Itome ninyia. Eat elephant meat when you go to a place where it is eaten. The Samburu don’t eat elephant and resist it strongly. The proverb advises people who are among other tribes step out of their traditions to try something unfamiliar because there is probably a good reason these new friends do things differently. When in Rome???

In browsing the book I found a number of proverbs so bang on for situations my clients find themselves in today.

Meeigwan laigwanani koon. An orator cannot address himself. This is fundamental to being a successful communicator and so easily overlooked. Your information is already in your head so you’re not telling it for your own benefit but rather for the benefit of your audience.

Ining lee lgosso kwaarie, nidol nkonyek dama. You hear a man’s tone of voice at night and observe his eyes during the day. This advises you to listen for someone’s emotional predisposition, then use your eyes to confirm what you thought you heard in their voice.

We constantly hear that we live in unprecedented times but in reality most of the plagues and traumas of modern life are repeats of those that have struck humanity in the past. There are insights and advice, handed down through generations of people living in dramatically different circumstances, that are still bang on relevant. That also reinforces the understanding that we are all, at heart, the same people.

Joanna Piros