Tsumo| Generational wisdom from 20 Shona proverbs

Proverbs are regarded as a source of knowledge and wisdom passed down through generations.
Below are twenty Shona proverbs together with an explanation of what inspired each proverb, and its application.

1. Guyu kutsvuka, kutsvuka zvaro asi mukati rizere masvosve.

guyu (onde): fig

Inspiration for proverb
The fig fruit ripens from pale green to yellow or red and is fleshy and sweet. When it becomes very ripe, it develops an opening at the bottom (flower end). Ants like to go in and eat the sweet meat of the fig.

Application
Things are not always what they seem.

2. Chisi hachieri musi wacharimwa.

Inspiration for proverb
Chisi refers to a day of rest observed by the Shona each week. This day is considered sacred. It is believed that failure to observe chisi will result in misfortune for the offender or community at large. Such consequences, however, will likely not be suffered on the day of wrongdoing.

Application
Even if punishment is not promptly meted out on wrongdoers, a time will come when justice will be served.

3. Dzambiringwa kumera munyemba hunzi ndava nyembawo.

dzambiringwa: a tangy but edible fruit of mudzambiringwa, which is a climber or creeper plant.
nyemba: cow peas. Certain species of cowpeas are climbers and trailers.

Inspiration for proverb
Mudzambiringwa and munyemba plants bear some resemblance as they are both creepers, trailers, or climbers.

Application
Associating with higher-ranking counterparts could fool one into believing they are now of equal ranking.

4. Ateyera mariva murutsva haachatyi kusviba magaro.

rutsva: area of burnt grass
riva: trap with a falling flat stone, for catching small animals)

Inspiration for proverb
When setting a riva, one will most likely sit on the ground while doing so. In burnt grass, the backside becomes soiled with ash as a result.

Application
One must be prepared to face the consequences or deal with any inconvenience resulting from their actions.

5. Rudo runenge ruvara, runokunara.

ruvara: colour
kunara: lose colour, fade

Inspiration for proverb
Most items lose colour with time.

Application
As the novelty of the relationship wears off, so does the attraction between lovers.

6. Igangaidza mukwenyi, mhezi yavavira mumwoyo.

gangaidza: bewilder or confuse

Inspiration for proverb
Failing to scratch an itch could be so frustrating and distracting.

Application
Sometimes one is rendered helpless under unexpected circumstances.
Some situations just cannot be helped.

7. Rufu haruwaridzirwi bonde.

bonde: reed sleeping-mat

Inspiration for proverb
A sleeping mat is spread in preparation for going to sleep.

Application
We do not prepare for our death as we would if we knew how, when, and where it is to happen.

8. Seri kweguva hakuna muteuro.

muteuro: ritual offering, or prayer

Inspiration for proverb
Preparing for the afterlife through prayers, intercession or worship is done by the living.

Application
Sometimes it is too late to make plans for an eventuality. It is therefore wise to make such plans in good time.

9. Chakafukidza dzimba matenga.

Inspiration for proverb
A house is covered by the roof, otherwise, everything inside would be exposed.

Application
Outward appearances are not always a true portrayal of the actual state of affairs.

10. Natsa kwaunobva, kwaunoenda usiku.

Inspiration for proverb
When in the dark one cannot be certain that there is nothing lurking, because it is difficult to see.

Application
When you part ways with those you have known, do so on good terms. You might need them again in the future, as you do not know what lies ahead.

11. Kamoto kamberevere kanopisa matanda mberi.

mberevere: slow burning fire

Inspiration for proverb
A low-intensity fire left to burn for long could have very severe effects.

Application
A seemingly minor irregularity could have significantly unfavourable consequences if left unchecked.

Application

12. Zano pangwa uine rakowo.

Inspiration for proverb
Sometimes we benefit from the advice of others.

Application
While it is good to take advice from others, you should ultimately determine for yourself what is best for you. There is no-one that has ever been in the exact same situation as you.

13. Apunyaira haashayi misodzi.

punyaira: be distressed

Inspiration for proverb
Being sorrowful could lead to crying.

Application
Hard work and perseverance will eventually reap benefits.

14. Chiri mumwoyo, chiri muninga.

ninga: Large underground cave.

Inspiration for proverb
Caves and shelters hidden away in rocks were used as secret places known only to the local communities. They were used as places for making medicine, rainmaking, as burial places or for grain storage.

Application
Your thoughts are unknown to others unless you reveal them.

15. Mviromviro dzemhanza mapfeka.

mviromviro: origination/ the very beginning of something
mapfeka: area above the temples resulting from receding hairline

Inspiration for proverb
In men, a receding hairline at the temples which results in a distinct ‘V’ shaped hairline is usually indicative of balding.

Application
Big things have small beginnings.

16. Manga chena inoparira parere nhema.

manga: pumpkin
parira: give away

Inspiration for proverb
A white pumpkin is clearly visible because of its colour, giving away where pumpkins lie in a field. Without it, dark ones will not be easily seen.

Application
The revelation of one thing could give away other concealed related things.
or
A group of related people could be identified or associated with the undesirable qualities of only one of them.

17. Gengezha mukombe, hazvienzani nekunwira mudemhe.

mukombe: hollowed-out gourd with a long handle used for drinking
gengezha: reference to an old/ cracked mukombe
demhe: piece of a broken gourd

Inspiration for proverb
An old or cracked mukombe is still a mukombe. It is better than just a piece of a broken gourd.

Application
To have something even if less than what is desired, is better than having nothing at all.

18. Simba mukaka, rinosinira.

sinira: ooze. continually flow.

Inspiration for proverb
Even if an animal is milked dry, milk will flow out again after some time.

Application
We recover from fatigue. Energy is restored.

19. Chenga ose manhanga, hapana risina mhodzi.

chenga: value. regard as beneficial.

Inspiration for proverb
All pumpkins regardless of size are worth collecting from the field. At the very least, their seeds could be put to good use.

Application
Be careful who or what you regard as worthless. Something or someone you regard as having no worth could turn out to be valuable in the future.

20. Gunde repwa rinonaka, asi hariiswi mudura.

gunde: stalk
ipwa: sugar-cane
dura: granary

Inspiration for proverb
Grain food crops have traditionally been stored in granaries to ensure food security and sustainability. The same does not apply to sugarcane.

Application
Certain things, though enjoyable, are temporary and of little value. They should not distract one from the things that truly matter.


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