Mwisho wa ubaya ni kuona haya

January 30, 2007

Does anyone out there know what this Swahili saying actually means?

Today, at an African Lunch hosted by a generous group of ladies representing most of the African countries, I was given a gift: a colourful kanga from Tanzania with the above motto printed onto it in two places. I been onto the Internet Living Swahili Dictionary and another online Swahili Dictionary, but have so far failed to make much sense of it. Something like: “Finally, evil feelings are a disgrace!” perhaps? Or: “The end of wickedness comes when you feel shame”?

The African ladies at the lunch were superbly dressed in traditional garments from their respective countries, ranging from long silk Kaftans with filigree jewelry from Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, a Libyan turquoise wedding robe, lavishly ornamented with gold jewelry, to a Zulu’s short red skirt, black cloak and beads. They paraded down the staircase of Paterson House where we had congregated, to show us these treasures. One of the most unusual was a full-skirted, deep blue velvet dress, embroidered with thick gold braid, worn by a tall Algerian who said it was a traditional wedding dress from the eastern part of her country. The ladies from Cameroon and the Congo, from Rwanda, and from Tanzania looked magnificent in their flamboyant headscarves, wound around like turbans, and in the brightly printed cloths draped across bare shoulders, their décolleté tops “emphasising their womanliness” as the presenter told us (in French). The little lady from Lesotho wore a blanket for a cloak and a conical straw hat. The one from Madagascar twirled an umbrella as she came down the stairs. The young lady from Senegal looked beautiful in a long, lacy, layered pale yellow dress with wide sleeves decorated with woven ribbons—again, a wedding dress—with a matching headscarf.

The lunch was served as a buffet; before I’d moved half way down the table my plate was full. I didn’t have a free hand with which to note down the names and origins of the dishes, so I’m not sure what I ate, but it included a slice of fish full of bones, spiced chicken, beef, chickpeas, bean stew, Moroccan carrot salad, fish-rice (risotto with shrimps), roast potatoes, a piquant tomato sauce and a piece of cassava.

All this effectively warmed us up and helped us forget the crunchy snow in our parks and the present outside air temperature of minus 17ºC.

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