Stanley Kalu studies screenwriting at the University of Southern California. He is originally from Nigeria, but has moved several times throughout his life. He spent a significant portion of his life in Nairobi, Kenya and now lives in Los Angeles, California. He recalls hearing a number of stories as he grew up; many of these stories conveyed moral lessons and were told to younger audiences. In the excerpt below, Stanley recounts a Nigerian proverb that discouraged competitiveness:
Stanley: “Growing up in Nigeria, I used to hear this one proverb all the time. It went like, ‘there is enough space in the sky for all of the birds to fly.’”
Isabella: “And what does that mean to you?”
Stanley: “It just means, it doesn’t have to be a competition… There’s enough space for everybody… to succeed.”
This proverb contains a powerful message about cooperation and kindness. It provides insight to the type of values that are promoted throughout Nigerian communities; rather than encouraging young people and children (the proverb’s main audience) to adopt a competitive approach to life, proverbs such as these encourage cooperation and tolerance. It makes use of animal symbolism for narrative purposes; by using symbolic language, young people and children are better able to digest the message embedded in the proverb.
This proverb mandates collective success, not just individual success, thus marking a critical distinction between Western culture and Nigerian culture. Stanley (my source) exhibits cooperative qualities in his own life, and I assume that Nigeria’s folkloric traditions helped shape that part of his personality.