Creatively using the wisdom in our proverbs

Guinea fowl are a protected species in Zimbabwe. Like the flame lily and the python, they are royalty

Guinea fowl are a protected species in Zimbabwe. Like the flame lily and the python, they are royalty

David Mungoshi Shelling the Nuts
There is a wonderful saying from the archives of Shona wisdom which in its original form says, “Kugara nhaka huona dzevamwe (We learn from others and are then able to sustain our legacies and our heritage)”.

My late father-in-law (for lack of a better term in English, for he really is my father, being my wife’s father and I can do without that trivialisation of a sacred family relationship) was always making this rather cryptic observation. And when he used it, the wisdom of ages oozed from his considered utterances.

This saying is one of my favourite Shona proverbs and proclaims beyond doubt and with precise beauty and conviction that contrary to what those who would want to demean us say, we actually do have a solid tradition and a cannon of wisdom.

What am I actually saying here?

There are things that people often do in isolation thinking that they are being unique and original. Nothing could be further from the truth than this terrible misconception. Every people and earth is endowed with grace and wisdom expressed in a language that is all their own. What this proverb teaches us is what we are calling networking these days.

You do not necessarily want to ignore something that obviously works unless of course you are the kind of person others call conceited. When you are conceited you are big-headed and too foolish to want to tap into the wisdom and experiences of others.

You think you are Mr Big Stuff, the puffed-up moron in Jean Knight’s phenomenal hit song from the seventies, a person so in love with trappings and appearances that he thinks he is God’s single biggest gift to humanity. Put simply, if you don’t know how to do something, you learn from others. You will find that people are quite willing and ready to give you a helping hand and to share their knowledge with you.

Only the true hermit does not need others, but then his life is nothing to write home about, is it?

The 10 Commandments tell us to honour our parents if we wish to live long happy lives in this world. I can assure you that we have always known these things and we have also always known that vengeance knows no bounds until the root cause is satiated. Some of us dismiss our cultural gems of wisdom by labelling them wild and primitive, yet strangely, no sooner have we said this than we become fellow travellers in the notions and superstitions of other nations.

We identify with Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff and spit out his venom with him as he menacingly tells Catherine, the woman of his obsession, that if she should cross him she will discover practically that the dead are not annihilated.

In many rural homesteads these days, you are likely to see domesticated guinea fowls pecking and picking stuff around the yard. Many years ago this could only have been a dream. Guinea fowl is a real delicacy, but no one could have dreamt that one day in the not too distant folds of time someone somewhere would work out how to domesticate this wild bird and have it at their beck and call when cuisine so demanded.

Reader are you thinking what I am thinking? I have this great idea, this wonderful idea that if we get properly organised we could start a guinea fowl industry based on supplies from growers out there.

But for that to happen we would have to transcend the rather mundane level of being driven by a quest for novelty. This is supreme oxymoron I can assure you, two sharply contradictory ideas placed alongside each other. We must see beyond it to fully understand the import of my few words of wisdom.

Some people will say once bitten, twice shy, as they lick their proverbial wounds after the quail bird fiasco. The quail birds or “zvihuta” went viral in a practical sort of way. People were claiming all sorts of wonderful attributes for the meat and the egg.

Why the magical little bird even found its way into the obliging kitchens of supermarket chains around the country. I am tempted to say “kawuntry” like the ebullient Juju Malema over in Mzansi, but then I could never say it as endearingly as he does. That was an aside.

I was talking about making guinea fowl a huge industry that not only can create thousands of jobs, but can also rake in millions of dollars through the export market that we can grow and cultivate in our region and continent and even beyond. We need a buy-in on this: chiefs and traditional leaders including spirit mediums, farmers, agricultural extension officers, veterinarians, nutritionists and cordon bleau chefs.

We even need to bring on board food tasters and connoisseurs of food. This way we can have an annual Good Food Festival whose theme is the guinea fowl. Before very long we would find that we had markets in Asia and the so-called Middle East (so-called because it really is North-East Africa).

Oh cry the demise of our beloved Parafini. He would have been the pull factor in our road shows. In the olden days there was a word that most English as Second language learners at primary school were extremely fond of. That word would have been apt for describing Parafini.

Yes, some of us have probably guessed it; the word is “gourmandiser”.

According to the online free dictionary to gourmandise is to enjoy good food and drink and to do so in lavish quantities. There are many among us who have this quality and who have transformed eating into an art form. They could eat anything and make you want to try it too. But back to my theme!

Let us borrow a leaf from the experiences of others. They did it in Australia and there is no reason why we can’t “did it here also”.

Do you remember that fictional joke about Honourable Founding President of The Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Dr Kenneth Kaunda? There is no way the man could have broken the queen’s language like that after writing the seminal book “Zambia Shall Be Free’ in which he began to talk about what humanism was as an ideology.

The British took camels to Australia from Arabia. Today Australia exports camels to the Middle East. They also took rabbits from the British Isles to Down-under and true to form, the rabbits outpaced themselves and bred beyond what was desirable. Today rabbits in Australia are probably what one can call a delicious nuisance. We need to be thinking outside the box once again and stop being predictable.

Creativity should now be the in thing. We need to be doing as a nation and as a people things that others have not yet done or things that if others have done we then do differently. We have a local example to quote and learn from. A Mr Gareth Lumsden, the Managing Director of Battlefront Investments, a Bulawayo-based company is the face of a new venture in donkey meat. If this wasn’t October I would have said the story in our sister paper, The Sunday Mail, was an April Fool’s Day joke.

The company has already spent the princely sum of US$150 000 in a state-of-the-art donkey abattoir and also begun to buy the donkeys. It must be that they did their market research and discovered what can easily become a niche market for them. This is what the paper said:

He (Mr Lumsden) said Battlefront was buying donkeys from Gokwe Gokwe, Plumtree, Gwanda and areas near Gweru, and they were primarily targeting the Asian market segment for sales.

Suddenly it’s all quiet and there is no more chuckling. Need I say more? Well just I said it, I mean about Asia being a market if we get our act together. Perhaps someone should compare notes with Mr Lumsden concerning donkeys and guinea fowls and how to get started with a bang and go international.

And as if that were not enough, the Chinese market is calling out to our farmers to do business there. I see great potential in the guinea fowl project once legislative hurdles are overcome. Guinea fowl are a protected species in Zimbabwe. Like the flame lily and the python, they are royalty.

Let me round off this week’s piece with another reference to proverbial wisdom. This time it’s the one that says, “Kuenda kwehosi inosiya imwe” (After the departure or demise of the senior wife in a polygamous household, another always takes over the slot).

If people understood this proverb, neither ZANU-PF nor MDC-T would be convulsing as we hear they are doing regarding succession politics in their respective organisations.

By the same token national independence and economic freedom should be the natural successors of the pre-independence dispensation.

David Mungoshi is a writer and social commentator, an editor and a retired teacher.

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