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Site Last Update: 17 Nov, 2019
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African Proverb of the Month
March, 2003

Ngora inlingino nanine; ndobagi nalobehe ngoba. (Nuba-Tira)
Cows are born with ears; later they grow horns. (English)

Nuba-Tira ( Sudan ) Proverb

Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use


Children are born, cared for and loved. They stop listening to their parents when they grow up because they think they know more than their parents. They think they are the "first" to see the sun. The first to see the sun is an elderly person who deserves respect and to be listened to because of his or her experience. You cannot teach him or her no matter how learned you might be. The elder is known to be an experienced man or woman. The elders' advice is wisdom to the growing youth and refusing their advice will hang on you forever.

This proverb is used by elders to teach youngsters how to grow up with wisdom and insight and to respect the opinions of the elders. This Nuba-Tira proverb is used especially in time of crisis, war, famine and sickness. The Tira people in Sudan have the virtue of listening and handling a situation before action. They live in the Nuba Hills in Northern Sudan in villages extending from near Otoro to the neighborhood of Talodi..

Biblical Parallels

Jesus was an obedient son to his parents and to God the highest. To be obedient, to live under a superior and not to seek your own way is a great virtue. It is safer to obey orders than to give orders. In reality everyone is inclined to follow his or her own will and agree more readily with those who hold with his views. But if we want to have the presence of God among us then we must be willing to give up our own way in order to live in love and harmony with others because there is no one so wise as to know everything.

Therefore listen to the opinion of others and do not trust too much to your own point of view. Perhaps you are right, but if you set aside your own will and follow another out of love for God you will profit by it. It is good to listen to every person's advice. Sometimes when people disagree, it is sheer stubbornness. See Christ's admonitions to the Jews.

Some related biblical passages are:

"A woman from the crowd called out: `Blessed is the womb that bore you.' Rather Jesus replied: `Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.'" (Luke 11.27)

The groom's best man waits there listening for him and is overjoyed to hear his voice. (John 3:29)

"No follower of mine shall ever walk in darkness" (John 8:12). These words counsel all to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, not our own.

"Happy the person whom you instruct, o Lord. Whom by your love you teach giving rest from evil days so that he or she may not be left desolate upon the earth." (Psalm 94:12)

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

This Sudanese proverb teaches the Tira people and especially youngsters in time of war, social life and critical situations to turn to the consultation of the elders and parents. When it is difficult to make decisions in particular situations, let the elders help you to overcome the impossible. Therefore people without horns grow in wisdom and insight, are strong and live long because those who lived long before actually lived well. Therefore it is important to live and to learn.

The church needs to teach and train those who are teachable in the church, those who have ears to hear and apply the teaching in their daily lives in order to produce good fruit in the future.

Rev. Edward Kushallaw Juju
Catholic Diocese of El Obeid
P.O. Box 21102
Nairobi, Kenya