What you don’t know is bigger than you

I believe that Haitian Creole is an integral part of Haiti’s strength.

This majority language in Haiti creates a sense of solidarity among its speakers, and through proverb preserves the resilience of a people that have fought for generations without ever succumbing.

Tout sa ou pa konnen pi gran pase w’ ” (see title), was a bit of a puzzle for me when I first heard it.  I couldn’t account for the way it was used; it wasn’t meant to inspire fear or a sense of ominous foreboding, but to recognize that you can’t know it all, and therefore cannot always control the outcome of any given situation (which for me, automatically inspires a certain sense of fear and foreboding!)

For Haiti, life has never been about predicting the future; life there is tumultuous, it’s unpredictable, and frequently unstable, so it becomes about continuously rising with dignity and grace to embrace each new day as it comes.

I think that exploring proverb can help those of us on the “outside” understand a little bit better the heart of Haiti.

Despite the oppressive character of injustice and poverty that plague so many, Haitian people are repeatedly described as overwhelmingly hopeful.

While many proverbs touch on life’s hardships, the more I learn about Haiti, her language and her culture, the more convinced I am that Haitian strength is preserved and conveyed (in part) through the language’s rich variety of proverbs.  These range from humorous to poetic, and encompass a wide range of riddle-like complexities; together, they represent an incredibly woven tapestry of idiom, cultural knowledge, humor and resilience.

"Piti piti zwazo fè nich li" [Little by little the bird builds its nest] This man is a fisherman and was using the space of an abandoned Duvalier mansion in Northern Haiti to build a net.  A simple, repetitive task for his skilled hands, but we stood by transfixed by how easily he manipulated the materials and the complexity of the pattern.
“Piti piti zwazo fè nich li” [Little by little the bird builds its nest]
This man is a fisherman and was using the space of an abandoned Duvalier mansion in Northern Haiti to build a net. A simple, repetitive task for his skilled hands, but we stood by transfixed by how easily he manipulated the materials and the complexity of the pattern.
More Haitian Creole Proverbs:

Chita pa bay”
[Sitting doesn’t give]
In other words: Sitting around/doing nothing doesn’t get you anywhere.

“Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.
[Behind mountains, there are mountains]
Anyone who’s been to Haiti knows the inspiration behind this proverb, what it means though is that to move past one sorrow or problem will only bring you face to face with another.  It can also take on the sense of “If it’s not one thing, it’s another”.

“Kouri lapli, tonbe larivyè.
[Running from the rain, you fall in the river]
In avoiding one thing, we fall into something even bigger.

“Kreyon Bondye pa gen gòm.
[God’s pencil doesn’t have an eraser]
In other words: God doesn’t make mistakes. (I think I’ve heard this one here in the U.S. before too?)

Pale franse pa di lespri pou sa.
[Speaking French doesn’t mean intelligence]
In other words: Fancy speech doesn’t mean you’re smart, or that your ideas are more valuable for that matter.

by Erin Nguyen on September 18, 2014

Advertisements

One thought on “What you don’t know is bigger than you

  1. This is why I am so sad when I hear about Haitians-Americans who are embarrassed by Kreyol, and why I find it frustrating that some people dismiss Kreyol as an inferior form of French. Kreyol has such a rich history — just like Haiti — and it expresses the history of the country and the awesomeness of the people in ways that I don’t think any other language could. I read somewhere recently that it’s worth learning Kreyol just to read and understand the amazing proverbs of the Haitian people, and I couldn’t agree more!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s