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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wolof sayings

As a final project for one of my classes, we're supposed to write a research paper on an area's cultural practices, then discuss problems our own ethnocentrism might cause us to have while adjusting to that culture.  I stumbled across a great paper on the Wolof of Senegal (Woyyi Ceet: Senegalese Women's Oral Discourses on Marriage and Womanhood, by Marame Gueye) that included lots of Wolof sayings that I found incredibly insightful.  I thought whoever reads this might like them, too.

liggeyu ndey anup doom - a mother's work is lunch for her child.  

This means that the behavior of a mother dictates the life of her children, especially her daughters.  Since it's recognized that children grow up to be like their parents, this saying explains that a woman is always on stage - she needs to be on her best behavior if she wants her daughters to find good husbands.  Unfortunately, this belief often causes women to suffer abuses in marriage.  Women who refuse to be doormats are "bad," and that stigma makes it difficult for their daughters to find husbands.

reeroo amul, naaka waxtaan na am - There is never disagreement, there is only miscommunication.  

If you don't see eye to eye with somebody, the solution is to talk it out and explain yourself.  If you still don't agree, talk it out more.  Then talk it out more.  Forever.  This implies that every decision you don't agree with is up for negotiation.  I like that if I'm the one negotiating, but not if I'm the one trying to set up a rule.

maag di na took di gis fu sori, xale yeek ca kow du gis dara - An old person can sit and see very far, whereas a young person can be perched high without seeing anything.

The elders know more about the world than young people, and you should heed their advice, even if you don't understand it.  In Gueye's paper, this phrase was brought up in the context of choosing a spouse.  In Wolof communities, important decisions are best left to those oldest and most experienced.

tontu du forox - reply never rots.

It's important for everyone (but especially women) to show self-restraint in disagreements.  If you don't retort to an attack in the moment, that's OK, because the reply will never rot.  You can say your reply later, at an appropriate moment (ie when you're alone.)

"Don't leave stomachs empty.  Don't leave the water jar empty.  Don't make children cry.  I believe if you combine this with determination in bed, no one will leave you behind."

They didn't have the Wolof for this one.  This is a verse in a traditional marriage song sung to the bride on her special day.  I think it's pretty good advice, particularly the "determination in bed."  I can't see anything like that being said in a traditional European wedding!