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Site Last Update: 12 Nov, 2019
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African Proverb of the Month
March, 2001

Okro tik nor de grow pas en master. (Krio)
An okra tree does not grow taller than its master. (English)

Krio (Sierra Leone) Proverb


Krio (or Creole) is the "lingua franca" throughout Sierra Leone in West Africa and the formal language for those who do not speak English. This proverb refers not only to the physical height of the okra tree, but also its inability to be superior and greater than its master. It has several interpretations amongst the Creole Ethnic Group in Sierra Leone. Most Creole people have housekeepers, caretakers, office messengers, etc. A houseboy employed by a Creole is subordinate to his master. Consider the example of a youth who has gone abroad and has acquired a Ph.D. degree. After working abroad for some years he returns home with a European wife and much wealth. At the village square he sees the elders gathered in a meeting. Instead of observing the normal decorum that a youth accords elders, he ignores them thinking his wealth and education have made him higher and greater than the whole village. Hence an elder in his semi-tattered dress calls him over and reminds him of his origin by quoting the proverb okro tik nor de grow pas en master.

Biblical Parallels

Take the example of Absalom revolting against his father King David in 2 Samuel 15: 10-29: "But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, 'As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then shout: Absalom has become king at Hebron'…"(2 Samuel 15:10).

Also see the book of Jeremiah: "Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast, boast in this: that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord" (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Contemporary And Religious Use

Fourth Commandment: Youth are advised to honor and respect their parents (elders) so that they may a have long life in the land of God (Yahweh).

This Sierra Leone proverb is used in social life to encourage citizens to abide by the rules, regulations, constitutions and laws of their land. This proverb also reminds a proud student that he or she cannot surpass his or her teacher. The saying No servant is greater than his or her master is both Biblical wisdom and human (African) wisdom.


Brother Victor Chambers,
Don Bosco College of Philosophy and Youth Studies
Moshi, Tanzania
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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