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Site Last Update: 24 Feb, 2020

June, 2015 A water pot cannot stand on its own without a support. Luo (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) Proverb

  Agulu kidiedi maonge tach. (Luo)
Nyungu ya maji haiwezi kusimama bila cha kuishikilia. (Kiswahili)
Le pot d’eau est necessaire pour la vie. (French)
A water pot cannot stand on its own without a support. (English)

Luo (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) Proverb


Background, Explanation, History, Meaning and Everyday Use
The Luo Ethnic Group is one of the river lake Nilotes found in Kenya. They are said to have come from Southern Sudan. Originally they lived at a place called Wau at the junction of the rivers Meridi and Sue. They are a section of the Jii-speaking groups, the other two being the Dinka and Nuer.Luo has two dialects:Alego and South Nyanza. Research shows that the Luo people were originally pastoralists. Today they are also involved in farming and fishing.

The Luo believed in a type of modified “communism” or socialism. They were led by a ruoth (“ruler) who grouped the people into villages that were ruled by elders. Communal activities included cultivation of land and community ceremonies -- whether they were joyous or mourning the dead. The women used clay water pots with a rounded bottom to fetch and store water for the family’s use. It was supported by three stones or other means. Being rounded it could not stand upright on its own. The reference to the water pot showed that for a stable family or community everyone had to give joint positive support in all activities for success to be realized.

Unmarried men were considered incomplete because they lacked support of the women to help them have mature views on issues. It was therefore very important that men get married immediately that they became of age. Marriage created a permanent bond between the immediate and extended families as well as the general community. The union also symbolized joint effort to achieve a cultural goal of procreation and continuity of the generation/lineage. Sons and daughters were the future of the lineage. The family and community therefore, were expected to respect, protect and support the couple in every way possible. They nurtured them to become dependable members of the society.

Although this tradition is slowly changing because of urbanization, it is still being practiced in the rural areas. In their day to day life everything is done with the support of other members of the community bringing to reality the Swahili saying kidole kimoja hakivunji chawa (one finger cannot kill a louse). Joint effort is required in order to succeed in achieving goals.


Biblical Parallels
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-10).

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work, if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).


Contemporary Use and Religious Application 
Contemporary African society was built around a type of modified “communism” or socialism whereby people came together to share ideas and also lend a helping hand to brothers and sisters within the community. In Christianity the proverb is relevant because in Christianity there are people who need help, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. Unless we support each other as followers of Christ, showing love for one another as a sign of humbleness, then Christianity will not serve its purpose. The Christian Churches are working hard to inculcate the value of service and togetherness. For this reason Jesus Christ served people without discrimination. This is a call for all Christians to serve one another because we cannot live in a vacuum. Serving to reach out to the less fortunate will build the world socially and spiritually.

This Luo Proverb can be used to teach the meaning of the Holy Trinity: one God and three persons (one cooking pot and three stones).

NOTE: This proverb is No. 2 in the Collection of 100 Luo Proverbs (Nairobi, Kenya 2015).


Explanation and Photographs provided by:

Gabriel Odhiambo
P. O. Box 3897
00200 Nairobi, Kenya 
Cellphone: 0726-3695930726-369593
Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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