“A bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, he told her, to which she retorted that a proverb was the last refuge of the mentally destitute.” W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil
Proverbs are an integral part of African culture. Passed on from generation to generation for centuries, they are still in wide use today. Proverbs are used to illustrate ideas, reinforce arguments and deliver messages of inspiration, consolation, celebration and advice. Here are some of my favorite African proverbs. There are many.
No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams.
The rain does not fall on one roof.
If you want to walk fast walk alone, if you want to walk far walk together.
The best way to eat an elephant in your path, is to cut him up into little pieces.
The death of an elderly man is like a burning library.
Not everyone who chases the zebra caught it but he who caught it, chased it.
Never marry a woman who has bigger feet than you.
Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off.
If you carry the egg basket, do not dance.
Only a fool tests the river with both feet.
Teeth do not see poverty. (smile)
Rain beats the leopard’s skin but does not wash out the spots.
Don’t set sail using someone else’s star.
The child of a rat is a rat.
There are no shortcuts to the top of the palm tree.
You must attend to your business with the vendor in the market, and not to the noise of the market.
A bridge is repaired only when someone falls into the water.
He that beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself.
Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.