Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shilluk story: Even-handed Creator God

Creation: Spring& Easter
God has only one measure for all people. (Haiti)

Juok is the Creator-God of the Shilluk peoples who live in Sudan on the west bank of the Nile.

Juok molded human beings out of clay, and he traveled all over the world to collect material. In Egypt he found the mud of the Nile, and so created red or brown people. In northern countries he used white earth or sand to create white people. In the land of the Shilluks, Juok created black people from the dark-colored earth on the banks of the Nile.

Human beings took time to create. First of all, Juok said, “These people will need to work, so I will give them legs so they can walk and run.” So the bodies were all legs.

“They need to grow food,” he said. So he gave humans one arm to hold the hoe, and the other to pull up weeds.

“They look clumsy,” Juok said. “They need to see what they are doing.” So he gave them two eyes.

“Crops are of little use if humans can’t eat the food they grow,” he said. “I will give each person a mouth.”

“They need to be able to celebrate the harvest,” he said. “They need to dance and speak and sing and shout for joy.” He then gave each one a tongue.

“But how will they dance and hear each other speak and sing and shout if they can’t hear?” Juok asked himself. He therefore gave each human being ears.

He then declared his job was done, and his creation of humans – red, brown, white, black – was perfect.

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at