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Akukho Nkanga idubula ingethi

Among the abundant plant species that cover the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, lies the Nkanga plant. The Nkanga plant is a native shrub that belongs to the daisy family. It has small beautiful yellow flowers which occupy the land in November. As a result, the Xhosa people have named November month as eyeNkanga (month of the Nkanga). Since we are celebrating Heritage month in South Africa, I will be sharing some of the reasons as to why this nugget of wisdom has resonated with the people throughout the generations. 

The Nkanga plant is said to grow quickly but also dies very quickly (talk about easy come, easy go). In November, this plant paints the fields yellow with its flowers. A yellow flower is very hard not to notice in the field. Now, imagine a field full of them! When the Nkanga plant blooms, it makes a statement. As abundant and beautiful as the plant blooms, soon after its breath-taking appearance, the plant withers and dies. In their wisdom, the ancient Xhosa people have likened this situation to the life we live and thus have captured it in a proverb. This proverb has thus been passed down through generations, and even in our modern-day this proverb still holds so much value. 

Several translations have been derived from the proverb, akukho Kanga idubula ingethi (there is no Nkanga that comes into flower and does not whither). As different as they are, they can all be summed into this one fact about life: nothing lasts forever. This can be a pill hard to swallow when our fields are full of beautiful brightly coloured flowers as our lives can be adorned by very fortunate circumstances. We are graced by these moments and our lives are filled with meaning. It is unfortunate that just as the Nkanga plant does in a blink of an eye, these circumstances wither. When this happens, we are left bare and with no option but to wait the following November of our lives. That being said, in our moments of gloom, this proverb can inspire hope. Pain in this life is inevitable. This is one factor every human-being shares. Bound to this life are situations that at times can cause us to regret the day in which we were born. These situations can get so intense that we at times are tempted to take our own lives. Thankfully, these situations also don’t last forever. They too wither and die, making our lives worth living again. 

As recorded in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3 verse 1, “There is a time for everything.” In life, there are times when our fields are filled with flowers and there are times when they are bare. Ours is to embrace them and all and make the best of them all. So, whether you are rolling on fields full of flowers or staring at them bare remember, this too shall pass.