Grand Bassa County is one of the most beautiful counties in Liberia. Its costal line is a fisherman and beach lover’s paradise. Along with the incredible coastline, Grand Bassa is also known for its incredible artistic talents, beautiful women, and Dumboy soup. What if I told you though, that it has other things to offer, like wisdom, perhaps?
The Bassa people rely greatly on their elders to provide guiding wisdom to the land and its people. Through their tonal language, Bassa elders have compiled their wisdom in the form of proverbs. According to the elders, the Bassa proverbs were gathered through wisdom from knowledgeable elders and hunters in the area, who narrated their experiences with nature, animals, events, etc. From the countless proverbs gathered by these Bassa elders, we have gathered 5 of the ones we believe is most relevant to the society we inhabit today. Continue reading to discover which Bassa proverb you didn’t know you needed. All the proverbs and their proverbial meanings have been gathered from the Bassa Proverbs for Preaching and Teaching, uploaded to Scribd by Marcio Bantu from Bassa Author, Abba Karnga.
1. Ni da wouun hwedein ni, oh nyu tonon: Water becomes saliva when it remains in the mouth too long.
The meaning of the proverb has been translated by the journal of Bassa proverbs for preaching and teaching to say: “Becoming a leader of any organization or group of people, is a privilege and not a right. Some people turn the privilege into their birth right and hand onto it until they have become “dirty saliva” in the mouth of their followers. This proverb urges that opportunity or privilege must be used as quickly and responsibly as possible to avoid it being missed or misused.”
2. So-gehn ni cheh-eh oh deh xwa: Chicken egg cannot turn its hen over.
“This is advice to young people who, because of their book knowledge, claim to know better than their parents.”
3. Deeh poein-dyi hweh ke wa kidi tede: Red ants bend a nest only when they are united.
“The Bassa learned the wisdom in being united from the ants, and have applied it to improve their living conditions in the community.”
4. M pinin m mion-kpo kopo mu ni, wa zain m se pinin dyede: If you cook yourself in a ‘tin can,’ people will dish you up with a piece of bamboo stick.
“That is, if you treat yourself cheaply, you will be treated cheaply by people. This proverb is a warning to young people who are loose in the community, and who do not care whom they sleep with, where or what they eat, how they talk, whom they talk to, and what they say. They become so cheap that they have no association with good people who can protect their lives and help them to develop.”
5. Xwada se kpooh kon, keh chudi-meh-nehehn be nyuan xwada-kpooh keh: Unless there are shrubs, there can be no jungle.
“In other words, it is people who give power and create wealth, yet people can be without power and wealth. That is, power and wealth do not determine the value of people.”
At such a crucial and defining time in Liberian societies both at home and the diaspora, it is important to remember the words of wisdom passed down by the elders. The proper functioning of the societies is determined by the key learnings taken away from the ancestors and predecessors. Continue your journey keeping them in mind, and you will find the journey much more bearable.