Sunday, March 9, 2014

What The Caribbean Saying "One Day Congotay (Congote)" Means

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents information and online comments about the meaning of the Caribbean proverb "One day, one day Congotay (Congote).

This serves as a companion post to The Love Circle - "One Day Congote (Congotay)" sound file & lyrics

This also serves as companion to which feature examples of and comments about the Caribbean children's game song "Congotay".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and sociological purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

I have found three online uses for the word "Congotay" ("Congo-tay", "Congote", "Congo-te")
Given in the order of the most often found meaning and the least often found meaning online:
1. "Congotay" refers to the "old" proverb (saying) "One day Congotay". "Old" here probably refers to the 19th century, but I can't substantiate that guess.

Most online sites associate this proverb with Trinidad & Tobago and with Grenada.

This sub-category also includes the use of "Congotay" in songs such as The Love Circle's record which is showcased in the previous pancocojams post whose link is given above.

2. "Congotay" is the name of a Caribbean* children's game and is the refrain used in the chant for that game.

*Online and off-line sources that I've found associate this game with Tobago, but it may have also been played in Trinidad and in other Caribbean nations. I used past tense, but this game may still be played in the Caribbean and, by dissemination, elsewhere."Congotay" refers to a Caribbean* children's game and the chant that is used in that game.

Update March 10, 2014: I had initially written that I had found an example of "Congotay" children's game in a published book on Caribbean children's rhymes& games, but that book didn't indicate which nation or nations the examples came from. I was referring to the 1996 book Down By The River: Afro-Caribbean Rhymes, Games, and Songs For Children by "Grace Hallworth, Illustrated by Caroline Binch. On further examination, *as per the two acknowledgements/dedications in that book, it appears that these examples come from the Caribbean nation of Tobago.

3."Congotay" refers to a Caribbean* prepared food. According to Candice Goucher in the chapter "The Enslaved Africans Kitchen" (p. 67) of her book Congotay! Congotay! A Global History of Caribbean Food (Google eBook) "Congotay" is a thick, pasty gruel made out of cassava (manioc).

*"Caribbean" here means "Trinidad & Tobago", But this dish might also be found in other West Indian nations.
This post focuses on the use of "Congotay" in proverbs.

These entries are given in no particular order and are numbered for references purposes only.
1. From Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago: On Historical Principles [Google Books]

A portion of the entry for the word "congotay" in Lise Winer's book Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago: On Historical Principles [Google Books] suggests that "congotay" came from the words "Congo's Day". "Congo" here is a referent for all people of Black African ancestry and not just people of Bakongo ancestry. My sense is that Lise Winer's conclusion is that "One day Congo's Day" is a shorthand way of saying that one day justice will prevail for all the wrong that has been done to Black people. The proverb "one day one day congotay" extends that core meaning to apply to individuals who do wrong and who will one day (also) have to pay for their misdeeds.

Triniglish|Trinididioms spoken and explained #63
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 Posted by Santiwah
"Yuh is ah Trini|"One day, one day congotay"…
"This is one saying that a mischievous youth or a bully in the neighborhood would hear from an elder in the community….,
One day, one day congotay simply means that the time will come when one will have to pay for ones misdeeds....

So as the Trinidadian would say, "who cyar hear will have to feel" and "one day, one day congotay!" "
Anonymous said...

July 23, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Why "Congo-tay" ? What is it about that word(s) in particular means I'll have my day soon and that evildoers will pay. I have my own theory about that.

3.From Islands of Trinidad and Tobago | Facebook [Google link access cloaked]
"One day, one day, congotay"- Sooner or later the day of reckoning will arrive and then you will know!"

Digicel Grenada; September 4, 2013

“Post” your favourite old time saying below. Here are a few to begin with.

'One day, one day Congo te."

"Date :Monday 29 March 2004.
'One day, one day congotay,'.
Dem family does say.
'One day, one day congotay,'.
Every body have to pay"
In this excerpt from a book or some other literary composition the person saying this proverb is commenting about a girl's "tomboyish” ways. The saying “one day one day congotay” expresses the hope that that girl will eventually outgrow that behavior.

"One day one day congo tay – Time will catch up with you. One day you will meet your justice.

7. Big Drum Nation (Grenada) Interview with Grenadian author Anthony "Wendell" De Riggs ; May - August, 2006
"BDN: A language is a conveyor of values. What are some of the values conveyed in the Grenadian nation language?
To answer that question I go straight to my Mother and Grandmother. I can still hear them telling me sternly “Respect yourself.” Yes, our language is filled with words and expressions that convey cherished values. I carried the word “Respect your self” throughout my life and I am mindful of the fact that if I can’t respect myself, I can’t respect others. The words filled us with pride. “One hand cyan clap” tells us of the need for unity. “Learning is better than silver and gold” my grandma used to say and that emphasized the importance gaining acquiring knowledge. And there were other words and expressions like “One day for watchman , one day for tief” or “One day one day one day congote” which presses the point that you might get away with doing wrong today but one day it will catch up with you. It will be good if our young people are familiarized with those valuable words."

8.,115038.html [Trinidad and Tobago Newsday]
The old people say
Freddie Kissom, Saturday, January 30 2010
"Yes, the old people used to say lots of things like, “One day, one day congotay.” This meant that the time will come when you will pay for your misdeeds – a sort of day of reckoning. Closely related to that expression is, “Monkey say, “Cool breeze.” meaning, “You have it nice an easy now, but you will suffer for it in the end.” Both declare retribution for your actions..."

9. [corrected May 13, 2017]
From {Google Book] Congotay! Congotay!; A Global History of Caribbean Food by Candice Goucher (Dec 18, 2014; page II ‎
“congotay [1 n Usu] In the expression "One day, one day congotay", indicating that the oppressed will one day be freed, that one day justice will prevail. probab One day one day Congo's day

2. n A children's song game, along line of chickens protected by a "mother" from an individual who says "I must have a chick".

concontay...congotay n A thick paste like meal made from casava...Congotay was traditionally used as a ritual food of ceremonial dances where it was served with a goat's head sacrificed for the ancestors.

From Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago: On Historical Principles by Lise Winer (Montreal, McGill-Queens University Press 2008)
Here's another excerpt from that book about this children's game:
Example #1:
One day, one day
I meet an ol' lady,
With a box of chickens,
I ask her for one,
She did not give me,
She’s a greedy mama
-as given by Candice Goucher in the chapter "The Enslaved Africans Kitchen" (p. 67) of her 2014 book Congotay! Congotay! A Global History of Caribbean Food

Here's the preface that Candice Goucher wrote about this game song:
“On the island of Tobago Congotay is a simple tag-and-capture team game in which half the children are chickens and half are attackers. The attackers try to get past the female leader , “the greedy mama:, to capture her chickens for their side. First recorded by J.D. Elder in 1936, the Congotay song and dance is still remembered in various parts of the Caribbean, where the children’s laughter punctuates the lines of the song."

"Congotay" is usually spelled with a capital (upper case) first letter. That spelling supports the belief that "Congo" in this proverb refers to a nation or region or a group of people.
I haven't found any examples of the word "Congo" spelled with a "k" as in the kingdom of the "Kongo".
"One day Congotay" is considered an old saying and it is described as a proverb that the elders say. (quotes #7, #8, #9)
I think that it's very possible that "One day Congotay" proverb was used and still can be used to express criticism and protest about the system which or people who unjustly treated/treat Black people as a whole. Because of the negative consequences that could have resulted from such criticism and protest, particularly in the past, it seems to me that the use of this proverb may have been an example of coded language, or "hiding in plain sight".

I also wonder if the naming the prepared dish "Congotay"* and naming that children's game "Congotay" also could have been examples of hiding in plain sight criticisms/protests or, if not protests, then reminders that the time would come when misdeeds would have a reckoning.

* Read the description about the congotay dish in Congotay! Congotay! A Global History of Caribbean Food (Google eBook) by Candice Goucher in the chapter "The Enslaved Africans Kitchen", p. 67. If I correctly understand what she wrote, Goucher believes that the name of this dish and that children's song are tied to the unjust treatment that Black people received and the day of reckoning that was destined to come, according to that proverb.


[Google Book]
The True History of Paradise: A Novel
By Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Random House LLC, May 12, 2010

Excerpt from chapter 62, Page 299
...."When you add- up an’ subtract- down all ‘dem people
You ha fe wonder when Africa go’stop wail
One day, one day, Congotay
For dem no know say we tuff it out here an’ mek it, dem no know say we survive-o
I want to tell me muma-Look ya, me no dead-o.
One day, one day, Congotay....

Dem carry Israel Pickney go Egypt. Dem carry
Africa pickney come ya. So much people
cross the water, cyaan be God mistake.
God cyaan shut him eye fe four hundred years
Four hundred years mus’ mek sense.
One day, one day, Congotay

Listen Jean-eleye, no matter wha’ you do
survive-o. Go back a Ife, go tell muma.
Hush now. Tell dem we did mek it cross de water.
Mek dem know. Mek dem know we is here.
"Ife (Yoruba: Ifè, also Ilé-Ifẹ̀) is an ancient Yoruba city in south-western Nigeria...

The meaning of the word "ife" in Yoruba is "expansion"; "Ile-Ife" is therefore in reference to the myth of origin "The Land of Expansion". Due to this fact, the city is commonly regarded as the cradle of not just the Yoruba culture, but all of humanity as well, especially by the followers of the Yoruba faith."...

Origin of the regional states: Dispersal from the holy city, Ife[edit]
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1 comment:

  1. I'm writing this to alert readers of this post that slam2011 added two comments to the pancocojams post about the Congotay game.

    One comment cited a 1976 quote about "one day congotay" and the other comment described the congotay dish in Jamaica & suggested a possible connection between the meaning of that proverb as given in this post and the way that the congotay dish is prepared.

    Thanks, slam2011 for those interesting comments!