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African Proverb of the Month
February, 2004

Kitacakari nyakook ewonit ngibaren. (Toposa)
An empty stomach can make a person lose his or her cattle; that is, when the stomach is empty the legs become weak and you can't run after your animals. (English)


Toposa (Sudan) Proverb


Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use

The Toposa community lives in Southern Sudan, Eastern Equatorial, Kapwota County and is a community that herds animals. In their traditional customs, the Toposa showed friendship between people by giving each other a bull or goat or spear or cowbell, i.e. a person may go to his friend and ask for these things. Before giving these things, the friend must also feed the person who is asking for these things.

Here is a story: One time a man went to his friend who gave him 10 goats, but did not feed him before he drove the goats away. On the way home, the man who was driving the 10 goats got hungry. He saw vultures dropping from the sky and sitting on the trees. The man thought there is a dead animal in the area and hoped to get some food. He ran to where the vultures were, but could not find any meat. When he returned, he found that his animals had disappeared.

Hence, the Toposa people believe that the friend who gives you what you ask, and does not feed you, is a bad friend. If there is no food at all in the country, your friend should accompany you or give you someone to help you to drive the animals

Biblical Parallels

Matthew 5:38: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Give to everyone who asks for something.”

Jesus feeds the crowd. Matthew 14:13-21: "It is already late, send the people away, and let them go to find food to eat." The people were tired, yet Jesus did not send them away. Paul, the apostle said: "'Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food."

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

Toposa people care very much about “nyakenu” (“strangers or passersby”) who might come and spend hours or days with them in their own place. "Nyakenu” is a group of people, strangers or known people, who may come and ask from you something to eat before they continue on their journey. These visitors must be entertained with whatever is available -- food, water, etc, what they need. The Toposa advise their young men and women not to let the stranger pass by without providing them with necessary assistance.

This Toposa proverb encourages many forms of welcome and hospitality.

Mr. Paul Lopyem
Nanyangacor Parish
Torit Diocese, Sudan
E-mail: Lopyem < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

 

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