Haven't learned Swahili - yeah, the sound is lovely - but still got a small dictionary which I bought some years ago, when I went to Tanzania. According to it, kimo means height, altitude, tallness or measure; the idea of measuring the length or tallness of something or someone; it can also be the instrument which measures this mwako also means flame, fire or heat nguo means cloth, tissue or dress, and if I remember correctly the particle -ni works like a preposition, sometimes translated "at" or "in".
Sounds like a proverb... kikulacho could be a verb, or anyway a composed word with prefixes, like ki-kulacho or ki-ku-lacho...
Literal meaning. (Picture a flea) 'whatever bites you is within your clothes'
Figurative meaning. The cause or source of your problems is often close to home.
Used when people are puzzled about the cause of their problems and look to blame people or causes distant from themselves, yet more often than not, the answer lies close to home. Think betrayal, infidelity, etc.
This is my first post here and it may be a bit lengthy, but I hope it helps. This is my own opinion, however there is nothing original that I may profess to have come up with. It is merely a unique perspective to a subject that most of us understand very well. I admire the swahili language and I feel that it encompasses the indigenous African knowledge quite well.
Please give some feedback, constructive criticism they call it.
I'm no expert but this appears to depend on what depth you want to go. As numerous other members have said:
Kikulacho - verb- "What eats you up"
Kimo - adverb - "Is where/within"
Nguoni - noun - "Clothing"
Mwako - pronoun - "Your own"
Ratified for clarity: "What eats you up is within your own clothing."
Literal meaning: If you notice a bite on your body through pain, itchiness, swelling or just discoloration then the first thing you do is check the clothing you're wearing or recently worn. You are likely to find the culprit within.
Of course philosophically: Most of life's problems and issues emanate from within ourselves, mostly from our thoughts, biases and judgmental approach in relation to others. Clothing is covering; covering what we do not wish to parade in public. Without this covering we may feel insecure and vulnerable. It is therefore something we wear close to our skin. The traditional African child was given the hide (skin) of an animal which would have been slaughtered in celebration of their birth. Once it had been cured, softened and decorated, it became the child's clothing. Each child had their own and as they grew up a larger animal would be required for this very purpose. I will not even attempt to speculate what happened to a child's old 'clothing as they grew out of it. However, it was unusual for one child's clothing to be passed on to another child. Except perhaps during famine and drought when there was scarcity of animals to be slaughtered, the flip side of that is that no sensible parents would have been enlarging their families in the middle of adversity. In cases where this 'unplanned' births occurred, the newborn could 'inherit' an older sibling's hide, albeit temporarily.
An bug or insect has to be small enough to dwell between the clothing and the skin, it would usually originate from the external world rather than from within the body, and it would be difficult to see, making it unnoticeable until it inevitably gets angry or hungry and buries its teeth into the skin. As mentioned above, this implies that it is the small things in ours minds or perception of the outside world that these bugs represent; maybe how someone/something looks, smells or sounds like drives us to make biased assumptions about them as a whole, disregarding everything else about them. These symbolic bugs invade our thoughts and when the subject of our displeasure doesn't live up to our perception or bias they bite forcing us to react. We may scratch, rub or scrape the skin through our clothing, risking ripping it and of course our quest to find the bugs is likely to force us to take our clothing off, thus bearing our own undesirable traits
It was therefore believed/demonstrable that if undesirable insects were biting the wearer of a hide, it was no one's fault but their own. Perhaps they hadn't washed themselves or their clothing for a while, exposed themselves to bugs etc. It is thus clear that this proverb was aimed at reinforcing the idea of personal responsibility towards one's well-being , discouraging blaming others for one's problems. By taking responsibility in our lives, we are then able to keep our covering in good condition, avoiding getting it damaged or having to uncover ourselves unintentionally due to the discomfort caused by whatever may be lurking within it.