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Site Last Update: 23 Sep, 2014
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African Proverb of the Month
July 1998

Nunya, adidoe, asi metunee o. (Akan and Ewe)
La science est le tronc d'un baobab qu'une seule personne ne peut embrasser (French)
Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it. (English)

Akan and Ewe (Benin, Ghana and Togo)

 

Explanation

This Ghanian proverb which exists in different forms in many African languages can be applied to the vast treasure of African oral literature. As John Mbiti says concerning African proverbs: "One person cannot collect them all, cannot analyze them all, cannot put them all into their context and cannot use them all." This metaphor also explains that human wisdom is so great that it would be presumptuous and arrogant of a single individual to claim to have mastered it all.

A biblical parallel is Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:18: "I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth" of Christ's love.

John Mbiti also points out that many hands have been involved in the development of the African Proverbs Project: “They come from different countries and regions of Africa, and from beyond. They are men and women whose arms, hands and fingers are adorned with golden bracelets and diamond rings of – you guessed it – African proverbs. But in these books [published by the African Proverbs Project], those hands stretch out towards others – to touch, to embrace, to warm, to give support along the path that leads to the Source of life.”

 

Rev. Joseph G. Healey, M.M.
Nairobi, Kenya

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