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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Individual agency and responsibility in African proverbial discourse
Author:Pongweni, AlexISNI
Periodical:Journal for Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences (ISSN 2026-7215)
Geographic terms:Zimbabwe
Subjects:Shona language
Abstract:'Akarumwa nechekuchera' ('He was bitten by what he dug up') is Shona idiom reminding us that trouble may be lying deep in the earth, minding its own business, as it were. Someone takes a pick and shovel and unearths it. The person bears the responsibility for the consequences of their own action. While proverbial lore has been the focus of much research and publication over the years, not many have thoroughly examined what the author interrogates here, namely how this lore seeks to alert us to the connection between our actions and our responsibility for them. Proverbs are as old as human existence, as can be seen in Jewish thinkers devoting a whole book of The Old Testament to them. In their introduction to that book, the editors outline the domains of life in which knowledge and acceptance of the wisdom contained in proverbs would enable the Children of Israel to live life as God intended at the Creation. These encompass 'reverence for the Lord, religious morality, good manners, self-control, humility, patience, etiquette in social relationships, loyalty to friends, respect for the poor, good manners, family relationships, business dealings, common sense'. In this article, after analysing Shona proverbs whose messages fall into some of these categories, the author concludes that, far from being conservative and authoritarian injunctions out of synch with modernity because of their alleged downplaying of, even frowning on individualism for being inimical to African communalism, as some Western thinkers have concluded, African proverbs carry wisdom which reminds us of the connection between individual and communal action, on the one hand, and individual and communal responsibility for creating the societies that we live in through such action, on the other. In fact, proverbial lore recognises both individualism and communalism. Bibliogr., sum. [Journal abstract]