Sukuma Stories



  Father Donald F. Sybertz, M.M, died on Sunday, 19 April, 2020 at the Assisted Living Center at Maryknoll, New York, USA.  He was 91 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 64 years.

          Donald Francis Sybertz was born 23 July, 1928, in North Weymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Frank W. and Helen Bronder Sybertz.  He had three sisters and one brother.  He attended Bicknell Elementary School and Weymouth High School (where he played second base on the varsity baseball team) and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Boston College before entering Maryknoll in September, 1950.

          After his ordination in 1955, Father Sybertz was assigned to Maswa-Shinyanga, Tanzania, where he served in the Kilulu mission in Shinyanga Diocese, the plains region of northern Tanzania.  Father Sybertz built the first home there to provide shelter and care for aged persons lacking families and housing.  He was later assigned to Gula Parish, a large sprawling parish undergoing expansion geographically as well as in the number of parishioners.  Eventually the parish was divided into several parishes, and Father Sybertz moved from Gula to Mwanahuzi and developed that center into a separate parish.

          Over the years, Father Sybertz was one of the Maryknollers most proficient in the Sukuma language.  His facility in the language, interest in the culture and knowledge of how to inculturate Christianity among the Sukuma people led him into a continuing study of how to relate Scripture and the African wisdom proverbs, sayings, stories and parables of the people. This study resulted in the publication of several books in Swahili, Sukuma and English as evangelization materials for the Tanzanian Church.

          Don Sybertz spent a lifetime (1955 to 2020) researching, writing about and using Sukuma (Tanzania) Proverbs. So far there are 19 Sukuma “African Proverbs of the Month” on our African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Website ( Some of his favorites:

  1. June,1998: I pointed out to you the stars (the moon) and all you saw was the tip of my finger. NOTE: This was our very first proverb on our website.
  2. October, 2003: The hen with baby chicks doesn’t swallow the worm.
  3. February 2014: The hoes of two people cultivating together in a field sometimes clash (hit) against each other.
  4. October, 2018: The salesperson (seller or merchant) does not have only one door.
  5. February, 2019: The medicine for a rising river is to go back.
  6. October, 2019: Even an elephant, that is, an important person, can be sent.

These and many other Sukuma proverbs and stories are published in Joseph Healey and Donald Sybertz, Towards an African Narrative Theology, (Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 1996 (1st Reprint 1996, 2nd Reprint 1997, 3rd Reprint 2000, 4th Reprint 2005, 5th Reprint 2012) and Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997, (many reprints, New Cover 2012). Available as an Ebook on Amazon (for Kindle) and Google.

Orbis Books Website: Publications Africa Website

All this research and writing culminated in the creation of the:

Sukuma Legacy Project Website

The Sukuma Legacy Project promotes the history, culture, oral literature —  Proverbs, Sayings, Riddles, Stories, Myths  and Songs — and visual representations of the Sukuma People in Tanzania in East Africa. There are various examples of SCCs and community values. This website is dedicated to Father Don Sybertz, MM who stayed among the Sukuma people for over 50 years in Shinyanga Diocese. While staying in Ndoleleji Parish he researched the rich folklore and culture of the people. See a short film about him HERE. The research committee that he created at Ndoleleji Parish (known as the Kamati ya Utafiti) is still working up to today.

Paulines Publications Africa Website

Amazon Website:…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Google Books Website:…

Reflects what traditional African proverbs, sayings, stories and songs used in Christian catechetical, liturgical, and ritual contexts reveal about Tanzania, and about all of Africa. Includes appropriations of, and interpretations of, Christianity in Africa.

Chapter Three on “African Christology” is called “Jesus Chief Diviner-Healer and Eldest Brother-Intercessor” and Chapter Four on “African Ecclesiology” is called “Church as the Extended Family of God.” It includes sections on: “African Metaphors of Church.” “Communion Ecclesiology from An African Perspective.” “Trinitarian Communion Ecclesiology.” “We Are the Church.” “Theology of Small Christian Communities as a New Way of Being Church.” “Ecclesiology of Church-as-Family.” “African Communion Ecclesiology and Pastoral Inculturation.”

          Father Sybertz spent his entire missionary career in Tanzania. He served as Pastor of the Mwanahuzi Catholic Church until it was turned over to a diocesan priest.

          Although Father Sybertz was given Senior Missioner Status in the Africa Region in 2001, he continued to work full time in Maryknoll’s inculturation and evangelization apostolate in Shinyanga, Tanzania.

          In 2015, Father Sybertz was assigned to the Senior Missioner Community and took up residence at Maryknoll, New York. He was appointed to the Mission St. Teresa’s Prayer Partners Team in 2016.

            Don was a huge sports fan – following closely every Boston, Massachusetts, USA team. He was a good winner and a good loser. We had a lot of fun over years talking sports. Sports was second to spirituality in his priorities. Years ago Don and I traveled to Ethiopia, Amsterdam and on to Newark. The first night home we stayed at my brother and sister-in-law’s house in New Vernon, NJ. After arriving at their house, within minutes the first thing we did was start watching the Red Sox – Orioles playoff game on TV! Don never got tired of baseball.

Many stories have grown up around Marehemu Padri Don Sybertz. Here is one: When Maryknoll priest Father Ed Hayes, Maryknoll Lay Missioner Susan Nagele and Maryknoll priest Father Joe Healey were preparing for the 1990 Maryknoll Society General Chapter we distributed a written questionnaire in the Tanzania Region. All answered but two Maryknoll Society Members including Father Don Sybertz who was “notorious” for never answering anything. After a weekend of a Red Sox – Yankee baseball series, I called Don in Ndoleleji Parish, Shinyanga from Musoma on the radio call phone system that we had between parishes.  For all to hear I said, “Don, I will give you the results of the Red Sox games only if you promise to send in your questionnaire.” He answered, “I promise,” for all to hear. Then I gave him the results of the Red Sox winning two games to one.

The next day he sent in his questionnaire! baseball series, I called Don in Ndoleleji Parish, Shinyanga from Musoma on the radio call phone system that we had between parishes. For all to hear I said, “Don, I will give you the results of the Red Sox games only if you promise to send in your questionnaire.” He answered, “I promise,” for all to hear. Then I gave him the results of the Red Sox winning two games to one. The next day he sent in his questionnaire!baseball series, I called Don in Ndoleleji Parish, Shinyanga from Musoma on the radio call phone system that we had between parishes. For all to hear I said, “Don, I will give you the results of the Red Sox games only if you promise to send in your questionnaire.” He answered, “I promise,” for all to hear. Then I gave him the results of the Red Sox winning two games to one. The next day he sent in his questionnaire!

            Father Sybertz was the brother of the late Dolores Hoyt, Loretta Sybertz, Ruth Hyland and Norbert Sybertz.  Father Sybertz is survived by many loving nieces and nephews and his extended family in Tanzania to whom he devoted his life.

          A Funeral Mass (Mass of Christian Burial) was celebrated in Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll, NY on 23 April, 2020 at 11:15 a.m.  Father Michael Snyder, M.M., was Celebrant. Father Daniel Ohmann was homilist and Father Edward Davis read the biography, Scripture and the Oath.  Burial followed in the Maryknoll Society Cemetery.

In the Memorial Mass for Marehemu Don Sybertz, Mwana Helena, in Nairobi, Kenya on 23 April, 2020 we tried to inculturate some Sukuma values in the liturgy. The “Prayer of the Faithful” ended with:”…in the name of Jesus Christ, our Eldest Brother/Chief Intercessor.” This is the Sukuma people’s name for Jesus Christ. It is the eldest brother, the firstborn male who offers sacrifice to the one God in the Sukuma Ethnic Group tradition. Compare Colossians 1:15: the beloved Son who is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” We used Preface III of Easter on the theme: “Christ living and always interceding for us.” It includes the words: “Christ never ceases to offer himself for us, but defends us and even pleads our cause before God.”

In this Memorial Mass we had a Dialog Homily when the homilist promoted interaction with the congregation participants using questions, invitation to make comments, proverbs and sayings (first and second parts) and open discussion. This was Don Sybertz’s favorite way of preaching. More of a conversational style. Example: Don: “I pointed out to you the stars (the moon)…Congregation: and all you saw was the tip of my finger.”

Some tributes: “We pray for and with our dear Marehemu Padri Don Sybertz, MM. He is now one of our ancestors in Christ, one of our “living dead.” The Sukuma people in Shinyanga Diocese, Tanzania loved him very much and called him the endearing name “Mwana Helena” (‘Child or Son of Helena’) after his mother.” “Padri Don Sybertz’s other Sukuma name was LUKALANGESE that means the one who finishes all the weeds in his field. Meaning: Take away all that is against the will of God in one’s life and put into practice the Lord’s commandments. Don prepared nicely his spiritual life by putting into practice the teachings of Jesus. That is why we consider him as a “Saint.” He also helped others in weeding their fields that spiritually means developing their lives by living according the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. He taught us on how to live a holy life.” “He was a living saint. What a blessing to have known him. Enjoy your heavenly reward.” “Raha ya milele umpe ee Bwana. Na mwanga wa milele umwangazie.” “Pole sana mwanajumuia Ng’wana Helena ametuaga yangu juzi tunatoa mistakes ajili yake Mungu ampokee. Kazi zake njema zimpeleke kwa Baba akayaone yale aliyotamani kuyaona.  Namatumai ikwamba ataiobea kazi yetu ya utafiti. Siku ya mzishi yake nitaongoza misa hapa kwetu.” “May the good Lord rest his soul in heaven. This is yet another African elder who has left us. Fr. Don pumzika kwa amani.”

“His co-edited book on African Narrative Theology was a wonderful resource to tie in

with scripture reflection in Tanzania. Helped bring the readings to everyday life.” I never met Padre Don, but this book was a great tool for me and my friends when we were studying theology at Hekima College. Even now as a communicator this is a great resource to appreciate our ancestors’ practical wisdom.” “Going through the African proverbs work, Father Don Sybertz really liked and invested his time in the proverbs collections and in sharing. A lot of work and enthusiasm in the project is truly seen.” Yes, Don was a great missionary. I remember him from the time that I was working in Shinyanga, and later from the Sukuma research. Accept my condolences  to you and your confreres. May Don rest in peace.” “He was committed to the SCCs Model of Church and promoted SCCs in his ministry of evangelization in Shinyanga Diocese, Tanzania. He integrated Sukuma proverbs and stories into his SCCs ministry as part of inculturation.” “My heart hurt yesterday when I heard this news. I bet I can tell some great Sybertz stories too. He was a faith filled priest. I will miss him.” “We can honor Don by promoting the Sukuma Legacy Project.”

“You and Don had unconditional love and esteem for the African culture and people. Together you compiled African verses. You both spent a life time in East Africa. Don loved what he was doing each day out in the bush. Several year ago, I visited Don and his brother when he was staying with his family in Weymouth, Massachusetts. His niece and family lived next door. It was a wonderful Sybertz compound. His brother also has passed away. Don never forgot his roots namely, New England, Weymouth, Boston College, Red Sox and Patriots. He never lost his enthusiasm for the games. Perhaps these and other aspects of his life made you and Don soulmates and at the same time adversaries in the world of sports. Don witnessed to us all what is the very best of a Maryknoll vocation. Now he has finished the race, may he receive the prize of eternal life and sit at the heavenly table with many friends from Tanzania who went before him.” “We loved Don very much. He will always have a special place in our hearts.”

During his last years Don would listen to St. Therese of Lisieux’s famous book Story of a Soul on his Alexa listening device given to him by his niece. In these sorrowful times we can be consoled by the words of St. Therese of Lisieux on her deathbed: “I am not dying. I am entering into eternal life.” RIP

Complied and edited by:

Rev. Joseph G. Healey, MM
Maryknoll Society
P.O. Box 43058
00100 Nairobi, Kenya

0723-362-993 (Safaricom, Kenya)

973-216-4997 (AT&T, USA)


WhatsApp: 1+ 973-216-4997

Skype: joseph-healey



“Bhugigela wihalaliki bho bhanhu bhabhili higulya ya libhujo ili: Inyama ya wiza kukila nyama yose ili kinehe? Na Nyama yabhubhi kukila nyama yose ili kinehe? Abhanhu abhabhili bhenabho bhagigasha, bhuhoya na gukengela aliyo adadulile nulu umo ugupandika ilishosho ilya gunfuja ung’wiye. Uumo o bhanhu abhabhili bhenabho witanagwa Ivigiri. Aho bhamala uwihalaliki bhunubho, uIvigiri agaja gujichobhela milimo. Ugajiliwa nimo go bhuzugi na munhu umo nkumuku uyo olinsabhi gete gete.

Lushigu lumo unsabhi ng’wunuyo agenhelwa mhola giki abhabyaji bhakwe bhalihaya gwiza aha kaya yakwe bhangishe. Agang’witana UIvirigi bhiinhe miganiko umo bhalabhasumbilile abhabyaji bhenabho. Bhagiyangula giki ulushugu ulo gubhabokela abhabyaji, abhanwani bha nsabhi ng’wunuyo nibhabhilingwa kugiki ulushigu lunulo lubhize lushigu lo gwizukwa na bhanhu bhingi umo ilidulikanila. Lulu, ulushugu ulo gushiga abhabyaji na bhanwani lugashika.

Unsabhi ung’witana untumami okwe uIvigiri ung’wila, “Jaga kuligulilu. Nalihaya ugule inyama iyawiza kulebha jose, iki ilelo abhabyaji na bhanwani bhane bhagulya henaha. Ilelo luli lushigu lo gwizukwa.”

UIvigiri uwizuka ubhihalaliki ubho bhugigela aho bhali nu nwani okwe ubho bhuli: “Inyama yawiza kukila nyama yose ili kinehe? Na Nyama yabhubhi kukila nyama yose ili kinehe?”

Agaja muligulilu alibhuja niogula nyama ki, luguku, jigubha, mhigo, matima nulu mbazu? Wiyangula gugula lulimi. Uluchala kaya nagwandya guluzuga. Unsabhi unsanga na gung’wila ashoke hangi ukuligulilu agagule nyama iyabhubhi kukila jose ayizuge lwande niyo ili yawiza kukila jose.

UIvigiri agaja hangi ukwigulilu wiyangula gugula lulimi hangi. Ushoka wangu na guluzuga ululimi ulo kabhili ahalwande lungi nulo gwandya. Imhindi abhabyaji na bhanwani bha nsabhi bhaganguha ugushika, bhubhakaribhusha chiza.

Unsabhi unhadika uIvigiri ayenhe gwandya inyama iyawiza kukila yose. Aho lyabhita ikanza bhandya gulya. Aho bhalilya unsabhi agankumilija uIvigiri giki oli nzugi mmani uyo agadula guzuga jiliwa jawiza.

Ahanuma ya yiniyo, unsabhi unhadika uIvigiri wenhe inyama iyo yiliyabhubhi kukila yose. UIvigiri agalwenha ululimi ulo kabhili, ulu tuula aha meza na guja kuliko haho na haho.

Unsabhi ahoyilingula inyama yiniyo bho witegeleja agabhulucha giki idabhizile heke nulu hadoo niyo yali ya gwandya. Aganondeja uIvigiri ukuliko na gung’wila Ivigiri bho bhukali, “Ivigiri, nayombaga wenhe nyama yabhubhi kukila nyama yose. Udigwaga?” Ivigiri agashosha, “Ng’hana iyo niyenhaga ihaha hiyene inyama iyabhubhi kukila yose.”

Unsabhi wingililwa bhupelanu bhukali na bho nduhu ugudilila abhageni agandukila uIvigiri aliyomba, “Nhala ntale ebhe! Udadulile ugumana ginhu. Nalinagutumaga ugenhe nyama ja mbika ibhili: imo yabhiza kukila yose na yingi yabhubhi kukila yose. Ukubhuhala bhoko wenhaga mbika imo duhu ya nyama. Onipondaga soni habhutongi ya bhabyaji bhane na bhanwani bhane. Kwingila haha yiniyi nagulechaga unimo. Ingaga! Jaga lyako.”

UIvigiri agahaya gwitetea hadoo. Agabhawila abhabyaji na bhanwani bha nsabhi giki “guli go nhana gete igiki inyama iyawiza kukila yose luli lulimi: iki ulu ubhiza na lulimi lowiza udulile gubhiza na bhabyaji abho bhagutogilwe, na bhanwani bhingi, majikolo mingi aga solobho nu bhebhe ng’winikili ugubhiza munhu ogukumilijiwa. Ichene, ulutumile chiza duhu, ululimi loko ufunye ilaka lyawiza.

Ukulwande ulungi,”  agendelea uIvigiri guyomba, “Ululimi ludulile gubhiza nyama yabhubhi kukila yose umusi; kunguno ulu uli ni laka lyabhubhi ugalutumilaga ululimi loko gudukila bhanhu, guyomba bhulomo lomo, gulisanya bhanhu na gusiga, lulu ugulwita ululimi loko guti wandijo bho gwiduma na bhabyaji bhako, bhanwani bhako mpaga ugubhiza munhu o sagala gete.”

Abhageni bhagabhona inguno ya ndimi ijibhili jinijo ijoagajibheja uIvigiri na aho bhiganika noyi bhagazunya giki olinikujo.” Lolaga Kugundua Mbegu za Injili, bhukurasa 50-51.

Ijitabho jinijo jigandikwa na Kamati ya Utafiti wa Utamaduni Bujora, ijojigahaririwa na bhakengeji bha: Padri Donald Sybertz, M.M., na Padri Joseph Healey M.M., na guchapishiwa na Benedictine Pubhications Ndanda – Peramiho, 1993.

“Gutumo dasomelaga umu lugano lyise, ululimi luli ginhu ijo jidulile gutumilwa ku nzila ibhili: Ku nzila yawiza na ku nzila yabhubhi. Ululimi lunulo ulo lugankujaga mulungu gunkumilija na gunamya ludulile gugaluka na gutumilwa bho gundukila na gundalaha. Ululimi lunulo ulo lugabhejaga widebhi wiza na bhanhu ludulile hangi gutumilwa bho gubhubomola uwidebhi bhunubho.

Dunombe Mulungu B’ab’a nema ya giki bhuli mhayo uyo duliguyomba duguyombe ku likujo lya lina lyakwe, nulu bho gubheja widebhi wiza na bhanhu.

Umukaya jise bhuli hoyi wasa bho heke bhuli ikanza ubho gunkuja Mulungu na gubheja bhumo bho gulutumila ululimi chiza.” Lolaga Kugundua Mbegu za Injili, ukurasa 52.

Zaburi 35:28.

Luka 1:64.

Waefeso 4:29.

1Petro 3:10.


“Ulizuka ubishi kati ya watu wawili kuhusu swali hili: ni ipi nyama nzuri kupita zote na ipi nyama mbaya kupita zote? Watu hao wawili walikaa, wakajadili na kuchunguza lakini hata mmoja hakuweza kupata jibu lililomridhisha mwenzake. Mmoja wa watu hawa wawili aliitwa Ivigiri. Baada ya ubishi ule, Ivigiri akaenda kujitafutia kazi. Akaajiriwa kazi ya upishi na mtu mmoja maarufu ambaye alikuwa tajiri kweli kweli.

Siku moja yule tajiri akaletewa habari kwamba wazazi wake walitaka kuja nyumbani kwake wamsalimu. Akamwita Ivigiri washauriane jinsi ya kuwakaribisha wale wazazi. Walionelea kuwa siku ya kuwapokea wazazi, marafiki wa yule tajiri wangealikwa ili siku hiyo ipate kuwa siku ya kukumbukwa na watu wengi itakavyowezekana. Basi, siku ya kufika wazazi na marafiki ikawadia.

Tajiri akamwita mtumishi wake Ivigiri akamwambia, “Nenda sokoni. Nataka ununue nyama nzuri na safi kushinda zote, maana leo wazazi na rafiki zangu watakula hapa. Leo ni siku ya kukumbukwa.”

Ivigiri akakumbuka ubishi aliowahi kuwa nao baina yake mwenyewe na rafiki zake, nao ni: “Ipi nyama nzuri kupita zote na ipi nyama mbaya kupita zote?” Akaelekea sokoni akijiuliza angenunua nyama ya namna gani, nundu, kidari, figo, maini au mbavu? Akakata shauri kununua ulimi. Akaupeleka nyumbani na kuanza kuupika. Tajiri akamwendea na kumwambia arudi tena sokoni anunua nyama mbaya kushinda zote aipike mbali na ile nyama nzuri kupita zote.

Ivigiri akaelekea tena sokoni akakata shauri kununua tena ulimi. Akarudi mapema na kuupika ulimi wa pili kando ya ule wa kwanza. Jioni wazazi na warafiki wa tajiri wakawasili, wakakaribishwa vizuri.

Tajiri akamwamuru Ivigiri alete kwanza nyama nzuri kushinda zote. Baada  ya muda wakaanza kula. Walipokuwa wakila tajiri akamsifu Ivigiri kwamba alikuwa mpishi hodari aliyeweza kupika chakula safi. Baadaye tajiri akamwamuru Ivigiri alete ile nyama mbaya kushinda zote. Ivigiri kauleta tena ulimi wa pili, kauweka mezani na kuelekea jikoni mara moja.

Tajiri alipokagua nyama ile kwa makini aligundua kuwa haikuwa tofauti hata kidogo na ile ya kwanza. Akamfuata Ivigiri jikoni na kumwambia Ivigiri kwa hasira, “Ivigiri, nimesema lete nyama mbaya kushinda zote. Husikii?” Ivigiri akajibu, “Hakika niliyoleta sasa hii ndiyo nyama mbaya kushinda zote.”

Tajiri akaingiwa na hasira kali na bila kujali wageni alimtukana Ivigiri akisema, “Mjinga mkubwa we! Huwezi kuelewa kitu. Nilikuagiza ulete nyama za aina mbili: moja nzuri kupita zote na nyingine mbaya kushinda zote. Kwa upumbavu wako umeleta aina moja tu ya nyama. Umeniaibisha mbele ya wazazi wangu na marafiki wangu. Toka sasa hivi nimekuachisha kazi. Ondoka! Nenda zako.”

Ivigiri akataka kujitetea kidogo. Akawaambia wazazi na marafiki wa tajiri kuwa “ni kweli kabisa kwamba nyama nzuri kuliko zote ni ulimi: maana ukiwa na ulimi mzuri unaweza kuwa na wazazi wanaokupenda, marafiki wengi, vitu vingi vya thamani na wewe mwenyewe utakuwa mtu anayesifiwa. Mradi tu uutumie ulimi wako utoe kauli nzuri.

Kwa upande mwingine,” akaendelea Ivigiri kusema, “Ulimi unaweza kuwa nyama mbaya kushinda zote duniani; kwa sababu kama ukiwa na kauli mbaya ukautumia ulimi wako kutukana watu, kusema uongo, kuchonganisha watu na kusengenya, basi utaufanya ulimi wako kama chanzo cha kukosana na wazazi wako, rafiki zako hata ukawa mtu ovyo kabisa.”

Wageni waliona maana ya ndimi zile mbili alizotayarisha Ivigiri na baada ya kufikiri sana wakakubali kuwa alikuwa na hekima.” Rejea Kugundua Mbegu za Injili, ukurasa 50-51.

Kitabu hicho, kiliandikwa na Kamati ya Utafiti wa utamaduni Bujora, kilichohaririwa na watafiti: Padri Donald Sybertz, M.M., na Padri Joseph Healey M.M., na kuchapishwa na Benedictine Pubhications Ndanda – Peramiho, 1993.

“Kama tulivyosoma katika hadithi yetu, ulimi ni kitu ambacho kinaweza kutumika kwa njia mbili: Kwa njia nzuri na kwa njia mbaya. Ulimi ule ule unaomtukuza Mungu kumsifu na kumwabudu unaweza kugeuka na kutumika kwa kumtukana au kumdharau. Ulimi ule ule unaojenga uhusiano mwema na watu unaweza tena kutumika kwa kubomoa uhusiano huo.

Tumwombe Mungu Baba neema ya kwamba kila neno tusemalo lisemwe kwa utukufu wa jina lake, au kwa kujenga uhusiano mwema na watu.

Katika familia zetu kuna nafasi maalum kila wakati kumtukuza Mungu na kujenga umoja kwa kutumia ulimi vizuri.” Rejea Kugundua Mbegu za Injili, ukurasa 52.

Zaburi 35:28. “Ulimi wangu utanena haki yako na sifa zako mchana kutwa.”

Luka 1:64. “Papo hapo kinywa chake kikafunguliwa na ulimi wake ukaachiwa, akawa anaongea akimsifu Mungu.”

Waefeso 4:29. “Maneno mabaya yasitoke vinywani mwenu, bali yale yafaayo kwa ajili ya kuwajenga wengine kulingana na mahitaji yao, ili yawafae wale wasikiao.”

1Petro 3:10. “Kwa maana, “Ye yote apendaye uzima na kuona siku njema, basi auzuie ulimi wake usinene mabaya na midomo yake isiseme hila.”


tongues grilled-meat





Once upon a time, there was a debate between two boys on which is the best meat and which one is the worst meat. They debated for quiet a long time without having an answer for that. One of these two debators was known by the name of Ivigiri. After their debate, Ivigiri left to look for job. Fortunate enough, he came to be employed by one of the rich person who employed Ivigiri as a cook.

One day the rich man told Ivigiri that his parents (the rich man’s parents) and friends will visit him and this rich person would like to make this day a remarkable day in his life. Therefore, he needs to have enough and delicious food to feed his parents and friends.

On the day the visitors came, Ivigiri was told by his boss to go buy the best meat for the guests. As Ivigiri was going to the marketplace to buy this meat, he kept on pondering himself, what is the best meat? He began recalling their earlier debate with his friend. Should he buy hump meat, brisket,kidney or rib? He finally decided to buy the cow’s tongue. He cooked the tongue. When his boss saw it, he appreciated but told him (Ivigiri) to go back to the marketplace and buy the worst meat and cook it separately. Ivigiri went to the market again and bought another piece of cow’s tongue and cooked as instructed by his boss.

 When the guests and Ivigiri’s boss had tasted the food, they appreciated Ivigiri’s art of cooking because it tasted so good. Later on the boss ordered Ivigiri to bring the worst food. Ivigiri brought the food and left for kitchen. The boss examined the meat considered to be the worst and he realized that it was the same as the first one.

He became so furious to the extent of shouting to Ivigiri: “Ivigiri, I said bring the worst meat. Don’t you hear? ” Ivigiri replied, “surely what I brought now is the worst meat of all.”

The rich man became very angry and he insulted Ivigiri saying, “Great fool! You can’t understand anything. I ordered you to bring two kinds of meat: the best and the worst meat. To your stupidity you have brought only one type of meat. You have humiliated me in front of my parents and friends. From now on be out of my house. “Get out!”

Ivigiri wanted to defend himself. He told his boss and the guests that “it is absolutely true that the best meat is the tongue: for if you have a good tongue you can have parents who love you, many friends, many valuable things and you will be the one to be praised. What matters is making use of the tongue in showing kindeness to others.

Continued Ivigiri, “the tongue can be the worst meat in the world; because if you have a bad language and  you use your tongue to curse people, to lie, to confuse and gossip, then you will make your tongue a source of confrontation with your parents, your friends to the point that you become a total nuisance. ”

The guests realized the meaning of the two languages manifested in the tongue. After a thorough thinking, theses guests acknowledged that Ivigiri was wise (Refer to Kugundua Mbegu za Injili, which means ‘Discovering the Seed of the Gospel,’ pages 50-51). This book was written by the Bujora Cultural Research Committee, edited by researchers: Patriarch Donald Sybertz, M.M., and Patriarch Joseph Healey M.M., and published by Benedictine Publications, Ndanda – Peramiho, 1993.

As we have read in our story, the tongue is something that can be used in two ways: for good and for bad. The same language that glorifies God and worships Him can be turned around and and be used to insult or discredit Him. The same language that builds a good relationship with people can also be used to break down that relationship.

May we ask God the Father for grace that every word we say be spoken in the glory of His name, or in building good relationship with the people.

In our families there is always a special opportunity to glorify God and build unity by using the tongue well (See ‘Discovering Gospel Seeds,’ page 52).

 Psalm 35:28. Luke 1:64. Ephesians 4:29. 1 Peter 3:10.

Father Zakaria Kashinje is consolidating all the Sukuma proverbs, sayings, riddles, stories and songs in his running list on our Sukuma Legacy Project Website

Father Zakaria Kashinje is consolidating all the Sukuma proverbs, sayings, riddles, stories and songs in his running list on our Sukuma Legacy Project Website

This website promotes the history, culture, Oral Literature — Stories, Proverbs, Sayings, Riddles and Songs — and visual representations of the Sukuma People in Tanzania in East Africa. Presently he is drawing from: Sybertz, Donald and Joseph Healey. Kueneza Injili Kwa Methali: Hekima ya Kisukuma na Lugha Mbalimbali juu ya Chakula — Kitabu cha Kwanza, Peramiho: Benedictine Publications Ndanda — Peramiho, 1984.

The English translation is Proclaiming the Gospel Through Proverbs: The Wisdom of Sukuma and Different Languages on Food – Book I. Kamati ya Utafiti wa Utamaduni Bujora, Kugundua Mbegu za Injili: Hekima ya Kisukuma na Lugha Mbalimbali juu ya Familia na Ndoa — Kitabu cha Pili, Peramiho: Benedictine Publications Ndanda — Peramiho, 1993.

The English translation is Discovering Seeds of the Gospel: The Wisdom of Sukuma and Different Languages on Family and Marriage – Book II.


Collected by: Don Sybertz, Scanned by: Cephas Yao Agbemenu, with special thanks to Rev Joe Healey (African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories)

Mbuki ya lusumo lwenulu lulilola Ntemi. Ikale yali giki, Untemi ulu ubhuka lugendo lo gubhayelela abhazengi bhakwe, ojaga na bhanhu bhagunshindilila. Abhanhu bhenabho habho bhabhuchaga imiligo yakwe.

Uwei untemi oladadililaga igiki aguzwala ki. Ulu miligo yukija ugubhuchiwa, yali giki, uogwiizuka nuyo alaibhuche.

Ichene igahaiyagwa nukubhanhu abhatogilwe nulu abhabhamanilile gubhidika bhangi miligo, abhoyi nulu gugema ugwikumya, yaya.



Chanzo cha methali hii kinamwangalia Mfalme (mtemi). Hapo zamani Mfalme/Mtemi kama akifunga safari ya kuwatembelea wananchi wake, alienda na watu wakumsindikiza. Watu hao, ndio waliokuwa wakibeba mizigo yake.

Yeye Mfalme alikuwa hajali kwamba atavaa nini. Kama mizigo ikiachwa kubebwa, atakayeikumbuka, ndiye atakayeibeja.

Hali hiyo husemwa pia kwa watu wapendao au waliozoea kuwabebesha wengine mizigo, ambayo wao hawajaribu hata kuigusa.

Luka 11:46Yesu akamjibu, “Nanyi wataalam wa sheria, ole wenu, kwa sababu mnawatwika watu mizigo mizito ambayo hawawezi kubeba, wala ninyi wenyewe hamwinui hata kidole kimoja kuwasaidia.”



The source of that proverb looks at the King. A long time ago the King/Emperor was traveling on a journey to visit his people. He went with some people who wanted to impress him. They were the ones carrying his cargo. The King did not care of what he would wear. If the cargo was left, like shoes, then the person who remembered them was the one who had to wear them. The situation is also said to people who are used to burden others with burdens that they did not even try to touch.

“Jesus answered them, ”You experts of the law, woe to you, because you lay down heavy burdens that you cannot bear, and you yourselves have not even one finger to help.” (Luke 11:46).


Collected by: Don Sybertz, with special thanks to Rev Joe Healey  (African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories)

Aho kale umongo ni mbula jigihalalika. Umongo gugigimba na gundalaha umuna Mbula, na gung’wila, “Lolaga umo nalinabhudula. Nokalaga minzi hangi nalizwilila na guhuuma bho nguzu mpaga abhanhu bhaliduuma ugunikila.”

Imbula igashosha, “Idishene, ubho nduhu nene ubhebhe udiginhu.”  Umongo gukashosha, “Yaya unene gwandija kale nabhiza giki, nokala minzi na nguzu hangi bhanhu bhalongeja gunikumilija noi gufumila miaka igana mpaka igana. Iki bhaliza kulinene bhuli lushiku gudaha minzi. Ehe, ubhebhe ulinabhudula ki?”

Giko lulu, imbula igakolwa na gwiyombela munholo yayo, “ung’wunuyu dubhone na nguzu jakwe!”

Imbula igoya ugutula umongo guuma gete. Umongo gugaiwa  ugogwita gupinihala na guhagigisha guliyomba, ugoyi ubhonduhu mbula gudi ginhu.


Hapo zamani siku moja mto na mvua walibishana. Mto ulijivuna na kumdharau mvua na kumwambia, “Tazama nilivyo na uwezo. Nimejaa maji tena ninabubujika na kuporomoka kwa nguvu hata watu wanashindwa kunivuka.”

Mvua akamjibu, “sivyo bila mimi wewe si kitu.” Mto ukajibu “hapa

na mimi tangu zamani nimekuwa hivihivi, nimejaa maji na nguvu tena watu wameendelea kunisifu sana kutoka karne hadi karne. Maana wanakuja kwangu kila siku kuteka maji. Wewe je, una uwezo gani?”

Basi mvua ikakasirika na kujisemea moyoni mwache, “huyu tuone na nguvu zake!” Mvua ikaacha kunyesha mto ukakauka kabisa. Mto ukakosa la kufanya ukasikitika na kuhakikisha ukisema, wenyewe bila mvua si kitu.

summer-river rain


In the past, one day, the river and the rain disputed. The river boasted and despised the rain and said to it, “Behold how powerful I am. I am full of water and I am flowing and I prevent people from crossing. ”

The rain answered, “Without me you are nothing.” The river replied, “I have always been there in the past. I have been full of water and power. People have continued to praise me from centuries to centuries. For they come to me every day to fetch water. What can you to do?”

Then the rain became angry and said in its heart, “Let us see who has power!” It stopped raining for years. The river had nothing to do. It dried up. It proved by itself the saying that the river without the rain is nothing.