The Agĩkũyũ, in their wisdom, understood that there are timeless principles that one needs to apply for one to progress and prosper in life. Among them is the need to develop long lasting relationships and networks that that would assist or support one in their journey of life. The following four proverbs provide counsel on the need for such relationships building.
|Kamũingi koyaga ndĩrĩ: a group of people is able to carry a mortar or stamping block.
Ngarĩ ĩhitagwo nĩ mũndũ na mũthoniwe: a leopard is hunted by a man and his in-law
Ita rĩtari ndundu rĩhũragwo na njũgũma ĩmwe: a regiment of warriors who don’t have a common or joint approach to the battle can be defeated by one enemy warrior.
Ĩrĩ mũrungu ĩgiritagia ĩrĩ kahĩa: a cow with no horns will graze together with one that has horns for its safety.
The first proverb on carrying the ndĩrĩ brings out the need to develop teams to help one perform certain tasks that one would not be able to perform on their own. Ndĩrĩ was a mortar that was used by the Agĩkũyũ to pound maize or sugar cane used in beer making. Because of the important part it played in the life of the Agĩkũyũ, they made it from logs of hardwoods such as mũiri (prunus africana), mũringa (cordia africana) or mũgaa (acacia). The log would be hallowed on the top end while the lower half would be left solid. Thus, it was a heavy piece of equipment which required more than one person to carry or maneuver. A man would, therefore, create a network of friends whom he depended on in carrying out such a task as well as many other tasks that needed more than one person to accomplish.
The second one on hunting the Ngarĩ (leopard) is still on relationships but this time round a different kind of relationship – a one-on-one relationship of trusted friends. While the Agĩkũyũ would not hunt a leopard under normal circumstances, it could be hunted in certain instances such as if it attacked their livestock. A leopard was, and still is, a tricky animal to hunt and required a special relationship such as the relationship between a man and his mũthoniwe (in-law); a relationship based on friendship combined with a greet degree of respect. It was a relationship that obligated one to help the other in certain delicate situations such as hunting a leopard.
The third proverb tells us that it is not just enough to from a team; a team has to develop a strategy and plan if it is to achieve its objectives. The proverb describes a situation where a military regiment fails to strategize and is thus vulnerable. The Agĩkũyũ had very organized systems for defending their territory and making raids into Maasai country. They had developed a sophisticated military setup that had a hierarchical order as well as organizational procedures. Within the hierarchy were the different regiments in the different territorial units. In preparation for battle or raids, the athamaki (military leaders) and athigani (scouts) of different regiments could come together to jointly strategize and plan for the raid or battle. It would have been folly for a regiment to just take off for a raid without first having developed a strategy and a plan.
The last proverb, on the hornless cow depending on one with horns, is talking about complementarity of skills and capabilities. It is basically telling us that in life one needs to identify others with different skills sets and capabilities that can supplement one’s capabilities or lack thereof.
In sum, whether it is in personal life or in business, these proverbs tells us that it is imperative that one develops different relationships and networks to help one progress and prosper. As an individual one needs to create a network of personal contacts that will provide one with support, feedback, insight, resources, information, and so forth. For long term business success, it needs to build relationships and networks internally and externally. Internally, depending on the nature of the business, it will need to create and develop teams and organizational systems. Externally, it needs to develop relationships with a whole range of stakeholders such as financiers, accountants, clients, suppliers, community, and so forth. A parting note: building relationships is not something that can be rushed; it is a process that takes time and patience; and, importantly a process that depends on credibility.