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Site Last Update: 20 Jan, 2020

August, 2019, It doesn't matter how tall your grandfather was. Medumba (Cameroon) Proverb

  Diisaa tee guibeiyou. (Medumba)
Haijalishi babu yako alikuwa mrefu kiasi gani. (Swahili)
Peu importe la grandeur de ton grand-père. (French)
It doesn't matter how tall your grandfather was. (English)

Medumba (Cameroon)Proverb

Background, Meaning and Everyday Use

The Bamileke people of Cameroon are a Semi-Bantu ethnic group. It is the native group which is dominant in the West and Northwest regions of Cameroon. The Bamileke speak a number of related languages from the Bantoid branch of the Niger-Congo language family.

The people who speak Medumba originate from Ndé division, with the main settlements in Bangangte and surrounding kingdoms. Ndé is one of the 58 divisions in Western Cameroon, and Medumba is the one major Bamiléké language. Nde’s estimated population is 200,000 and its kingdoms include Bangangte, Bangoulap, Bazou, Bamena, Tonga, and Bangang-Fokam among others. This diversity of people and ethnic groups explains why there is a multitude of local languages in Cameroon.

Some authors of history say the Bamiléké originally came from Israel through Egypt and settled in Cameroon. They fought their way to the acquisition of the new settlements. These brave warriors taught their descendants how to honor the community by sacrificing themselves for it. They also understood that they could not be honored by the community if they relied on their ancestors’ successes. They needed to achieve their own wealth to become self-reliant.

This proverb originated from these values of self- reliance and selflessness that were upheld in this community. People depended on each other’s efforts to achieve their goals without having to rely on the support of influential individuals. This unity of purpose built cohesion and peace among them. Through these that, which are still deeply rooted in the community, members are proud to enjoy their self-won successes.

This proverb teaches that a person earns respect and honor because of being independent and helpful to others in the community. When someone has flown with his or her own wings towards his or her success, the Bamileke always appreciate and welcome him/her into their community for the bravery they have shown and how they have faced challenges and overcome them.

Biblical Parallels

John 17: 20-21: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Philippians 2:1-2. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

Many people grew up hearing the statement that the only person you can depend on is yourself. In the African culture, over-dependence on other people is frowned upon. Instead, self-reliance is encouraged. Jesus Christ commanded the Christian Churches and its members to be self-reliant and independent.  A person must work in order to become self-reliant. Work is a physical, mental, or spiritual effort and it is a basic source of self-worth, happiness and prosperity. Through work, people accomplish many good things in their lives. They not only become self-reliant but also are better prepared to endure adversities. Therefore, they are even better able to care for those in need. Some people believe they should be given certain privileges even without having worked. This sense of entitlement is not acceptable because it makes them less productive and also causes them not to value work.

Community inclusion should be based on personal connections, common interests, shared values and interactions between people and community residents when they encounter each other in their natural social settings such as a church. Every member should be part of the goings-on. For instance, with the reduction or absence of donor funding, the Christian Churches have started engaging the Small Christian Communities (SCCs) to actively support its activities by periodically raising funds themselves. This creates a sense of ownership, responsibility, success and a desire to sustain the projects for future generations.

Local communities run development projects to provide themselves with services which they did not have earlier. Water, electricity and other infrastructures have become a communal service, and it is sourced without expecting the national governments to singly fund such projects. The joy of associating with such an endeavor brings about cohesion and a sense of achievement for everyone in the community. These attitudes and values are carried on into the future of the community.

NOTE: This proverb is No. 16 in the booklet The Collection of 100 Medumba Proverbs and Wise Sayings (Cameroon) published by Devotha Cikuru Bishangi, in collaboration with the African Proverbs Working Group, Nairobi, Kenya.


Devotha Cikuru Bishangi
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254718227541
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Photographs provided by: 

Elias Bushiri Elie 
Nairobi Kenya 
Cellphone: +254 735 973 276
+254 792 556 909
Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
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