Shona Proverbs - Tsumo

Literature | By Pauline Goredema, House Wife | 04 April 2013
PHOTO: © Baynham Goredema

A proverb is a short pithy sentence expressing some general truth or sentiment. These proverbs are important sayings that express philosophy of life, peculiar not only to the Shona but to other cultures as well. They express some general truths arrived at as a result of observation and experience, thats why they are usually part of the speech of elders, due to their vast experience with life they know better. 

Formation of Shona proverbs was obviously established in the 'Classical' times of shona society. It should be sought in Shona mythology just like the origin of all genres of Shona oral literature. The time when fundamental values in the form of customs of institutes were laid down by the progenitors of the shona culture. As part of the shona philosophy of life, is the Gurumuswa period. These values were captured in pithy and aphoristic statements (terse statements of truth/dogma) we call proverbs (tsumo) they had o be short so as to be memorable.


Since they reflect the life and thought systems of the people they cover a wide spectrum of the peoples culture. These include, wisdom and foolishness, human nature, friendship and enmity, fortune and misfortune, honesty and dishonesty, domestic affairs, authority unity, warnings and general advice, hospitality and humility. before uttering a proverb one would normally evoke tradition as justification for its usage ie  vakuru Vakati...(The elders said...) 

Today some Shona proverbs have become obsolete because of the different contemporary beliefs, westernisation, Christianity, individualism and political institutions.


Mostly proverbs carry wisdom precepts that of universal applications therefore proverbs transcend culture.
Excerpt from the Original POVO Booklet which was supposed to have been published in 2004.