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African Proverbs

1. A big goat does not sneeze without reason (Kenya).

2. A child does not laugh at the ugliness of its mother (Uganda).

3. A fig tree found on the way is enough to keep you from starving (S. Africa-Azania).

4. A full stomach does not last overnight (Uganda).

5. A house that is built by God will be completed (Ethiopia).

6. A lion does not eat its own cubs (Kenya).

7. A log thrown into the water does not become a crocodile.

8. A man on the ground cannot fall (S. Africa-Azania).

9. A person cannot dance well on one leg only (S. Africa-Azania).

10. A stick which is far away cannot kill a snake (Uganda).

11. A sweet taste does not remain forever in the mouth (Kenya).

12. A woman is a flower in a garden; her husband is the fence around it (Ghana).

13. All that we do on earth, we shall account for kneeling in heaven (Ghana).

14. An African should not be made to suffer the loss of an arm from a gunshot in Europe (Ghana).

15. An egg never sits on a hen (E. Africa)

16. An elephant does not die of one broken rib (S. Africa-Azania)

17. An elephant never fails to carry its tusk (E. Africa)

18. An empty tin makes a lot of noise (Kenya)

19. An eye deceives its possessor (Kenya)

20. Axes carried in the same bag cannot avoid rattling (Kenya).

21. Cattle are born with ears, their horns grow later.

22. Cattle lick each other because they know each other (S. Africa-Azania)

23. Chiefs are not chiefs to women (Uganda)

24. Children confer glory on a home (Nigeria)

25. Cunning does not last for a year (S. Africa-Azania)

26. Do not abandon a child when it has an itching sore (S. Africa-Azania)

27. Do not desire a woman with beautiful breasts-if you have not money (S. Africa-Azania)

28. Do not laugh at the snake because it walks on its belly (S. Africa-Azania)

29. Don't cut a carrying strap for a child before it is born (Kenya)

30. Faeces is the food of flies (Uganda)

31. God arranges things so that a leper's sandal breaks under the camel-foot-shrub, which provides the rope to mend it (Ghana)

32. God exercises vengeance in silence (Burundi, Rwanda)

33. God goes above any shield (Rwanda)

34. God is never in a hurry; but He is always there at the proper time (Ethiopia)

35. God is sharper than a razor (Kenya)

36. God knows the things of tomorrow (Burundi)

37. God saves the afflicted according to His will (Uganda)

38. He who eats alone, dies alone (Kenya)

39. He who finds the occasion to hurt others will be hurt by them tomorrow (S. Africa-Azania)

40. He who has diarrhea knows the direction of the door without being told (Uganda)

41. He that has never traveled thinks that his mother is the only good cook in the world (Kenya)

42. Hearts cannot be lent (S. Africa-Azania)

43. Heaven never dies, only men do (S. Africa-Azania)

44. Houses built close together burn together (S. Africa-Azania)

45. However kind a man is, he would never give his wife as a gift to friends (Ghana)

46. Hunger does not know an elder (or a king) (Uganda)

47. If God dishes you rice ina basket, do not wish to eat soup! (Sierra Leone)

48. If God gives you a cup of wine and an evil-minded person kicks it over, He fills it up for you again (Ghana)

49. If the calf sucks too greedily, it tears away the mother's udder (Kenya)

50. If you do not spare a day to fix a door to your room, you will waste three years searching for your money (in the room) but you will never find it (Ghana)

51. If you want to speak to God, tell it to the wind (Ghana)

52. In a community of beggars, stealing and not begging, is considered a crime (Ghana)

53. It is better to be married to an old woman than to remain unmarried (Tanzania)

54. It is not difficult to hurt, but it is difficult to repair (S. Africa-Azania)

55. It is the truthful that the divinities support (Nigeria)

56. It will not hurt if your lover steps on you (Tanzania)

57. Life is when you are together, alone you are an animal (West Africa)

58. Little by little fills up the bowl (Kenya)

59. Marriage roasts (hardens) (S. Africa-Azania)

60. Much roaming about deprived the male rat of its fat (Ghana)

61. Never mind if your nose is ugly as long as you can breathe through it (Zaire)

62. No one shows a child the Supreme Being (Ghana)

63. One bird in the hand is more valuable than two in the woods (Kenya)

64. One does not follow the footprints in the water (S.Africa-Azania)

65. One finger cannot kill a louse (Kenya)

66. One fly causes the whole carcass of a cow to rot (Kenya)

67. One man's stomach does not work for the stomach of somebody else (S. Africa-Azania)

68. One mouth cannot drink from two calabashes at the same time (Uganda)

69. People get fed up even with honey (Uganda)

70. Rather than praise yourself, you should be praised by God (Rwanda)

71. Sleep killed the lion (S. Africa-Azania)

72. Stolen things bring in misfortune (Kenya)

73. The calabash of the kind person breaks no (Nigeria)

74. The clan of "I will do it" was overtaken without having done it (Kenya)

75. The cock drinking water, raises its head to God in thankfulness (Ghana)

76. The creature is not greater than its Creator (Burundi)

77. The day one has plenty to eat, it is the elders who come to the rescue. The day one has nought to eat, it is the elders who come to the rescue (Nigeria)

78. The earth is the mother of all (Nigeria)

79. The enemy prepares a grave, but God prepares you a way of escape (Rwanda)

80. The forest has ears (Kenya)

81. The guest has tastier snuff (Kenya)

82. The hand of the young does not reach the high shelf; that of the elder does not go into the gourd (Nigeria)

83. The hen comes from the egg and the egg comes from the hen (S. Africa0-Azania)

84. The hyena does not forget where it has hidden its kill (S. Africa-Azania)

85. The leopard that visits you is the one which kills you (East Africa)

86. The mother of a great man has not horns (i.e. she is a simple woman) (Kenya)

87. The mouth is the radio (transmitter) of the African (Kenya)

88. The one who is too talkative leaves his mouth empty (East Africa)

89. The one whom God clothes will not go naked (Ethiopia)

90. The plant protected by God is never hurt by the wind (Rwanda)

91. The poor man's main tool is his tongue with which he defends himself (Ghana)

92. The stick of God does not cause one to cry (i.e. it is not painful) (Kenya)

93. The strength of the crocodile is the water (S. Africa-Azania)

94. The warmth of a rock is known only by the lizard (which lies on it) (Kenya)

95. The way to overcome cold is to warm each other (S. Africa-Azania)

96. The wealth of the wicked will be scattered by the wind like chaff (S. Africa-Azania)

97. The woman is a banana tree (which multiplies itself); the man, however, is a cornstalk (which stands alone) (Ghana)

98. The woman is the rib of man (Uganda)

99. There is no difference between mother and baby snakes, they are equally poisonous (Kenya)

100. There is no lion which cannot miss a chase (Kenya)

101. There is no pond which the sun cannot dry up (Kenya)

102. "Though I am not edible," says the vulture, "yet I nurse my eggs in the branches of a high tree because man is hard to be trusted" (Ghana)

103. To avoid fraud (or since God does not like wickedness), God gave every creature a name (Ghana)

104. To borrow is to spoil friendship (East Africa)

105. To eat much leaves you with a swollen belly (Kenya)

106. To stir (the water in) the pond brings up the mud (S. Africa-Azania)

107. Two friends share the white ant (Uganda)

108. Two male hippos do not stay in the same pond (S. Africa-Azania)

109. We are born from the womb of our mother; we are buried in the womb of the earth (Ethiopia)

110. We do not see God, we only see His works (Ethiopia)

111. Wealth is dew (S. Africa-Azania)

112. What God puts in store for someone (or preserves for the poor) never goes rotten (East Africa)

113. When a sweet potato has been thrown into the ash-heap it becomes uneatable (S. Africa-Azania)

114. When the chief limps, all his subjects limp also (S. Africa -Azania)

115. Whenever a person breaks a stick in the forest, let him consider what it would be like, if it were himself that was thus broken (Nigeria)

116. Whoever comes last drinks muddy water (Kenya, Uganda)

117. Wives and oxen have no friends (Kenya)

118. Yam is sweet, but one should eat it in the normal way, lest swallowing chokes him (Ghana)

119. You can trust neither the rainy season sky nor babies' bottoms (Ethiopia)

120. You do not become a chief simply by sitting on a big stool (Ghana)

 

From John S. Mbiti, Introduction to African Religion, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Heinemann, 1991), pp. 208-212.






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