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Site Last Update: 19 Nov, 2019
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African Proverb of the Month
Dec, 2007


Acute dje kplo metso dada gbo o. (Ewe-mina)
Quand le manioc n’est pas tendre, ce n’est pas la faute du cuisinier. (French)
Hard and tasteless cassava has nothing to do with the way it was cooked. (Literal English Translation)
It is not the cook's fault when the cassava turns out to be hard and tasteless. (Figurative English Translation)

Ewe-mina (Benin, Ghana, and Togo) Proverb

Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use

The Ewe-mina people are one of the major ethnic groups in Togo and also live in Ghana and Benin. Great cuisine is highly valued in the Ewe-mina culture. It is usually the women who cook and the men appreciate the good cuisine. A woman who cooks well is highly respected and is usually the pride of her family. A woman who does not know how to cook is often also considered uneducated.

Cassava is one of the people's main foods. So any great cook is supposed to have in one's repertoire a delicious cassava dish. But ironically, the simplest cassava dish—boiled cassava—is also the most unpredictable. This because it may come out tender and delicious or hard, tough, tasteless and not so appetizing. This phenomenon has more to do with the nature of the cassava itself than with the skills of the cook. There are some cassavas that come out tender and other that turn out hard and tough. No one knows which kind of cassava she or he is cooking until it is completely cooked. Hence this Ewe-mina expression that it is not the cook’s fault when the cassava turns out to be tasteless.

This proverb is often used to describe a situation when a person does all that she or he can, but still has a poor result such as a good parent whose child becomes delinquent, or a dedicated educator whose students perform below the average.

Biblical Parallels

"For no fault of mine, they run and make ready" (Psalm 59:4). "We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry" (2 Corinthians 6:3).

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

In a world and cultures where we tend to blame everything on someone, including ourselves, and where we must investigate any failure, this African proverb reminds us that it is not in all situations that we need a scape goat. There are situations that are beyond our capacities and control. We must learn from them and move on. This Ewe-mina proverb is also a great reminder for educators and formation directors that when it comes to educating people there is only so much that they can do.

Mr. Simeon Messan Adagba

Elizabeth, New Jersey
USA

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