Wednesday, 8 September 2010

12 African Proverbs

Monoko Mbele, makola ndunda.* 

People enjoyed Sunday's African proverb so I dug out some more and here they are. I have a list - not sure where I got it from.

There are dozens about animals you probably wouldn't encounter in Birkenhead Precinct, and many more involving trees.

There are also plenty that are identical to our own, and quite a few more that are so obvious as to veer away from the term 'proverb' into the territory of common bloody sense. 

So I've  savaged the list and whittled it down to a short-list of my favourites. I think we can all learn something here.

In no particular order:

'Every hill has its leopard.'
Bahaya proverb

'Who takes a hut, also takes the rats and cockroaches.
Ntomba proverb.

'Do not grab your heel until the ant has bitten you.'
Ekonda proverb.

'If you carry the egg basket do not dance.'
Ambede proverb

'The wind does not break a tree that can bend'.
(Sukuma proverb)

'The elephant dies, but his tusks remain'.
(Bamfinu proverb)

'The wind helps those without an axe to cut wood'.
(Bamileke proverb - Cameroon and parts of Nigeria)

'We rest our legs, but never our mouths'.
(Bahaya [Haya] proverb, Tanzania)

'A knife does not recognise its owner'.
(Mongo proverb, Democratic Republic of Congo - former Zaïre)

'Pretend you are dead and you will see who really loves you'.** 
(Bamoun proverb)

'Only when a tree has grown can you tie your cow to it".
Jabo proverb,Liberia)

How about making up some more for me?  They have to involve a wild animal (preferably a predator) and/or a tree...

* Just a a reminder to those who missed the previous post that the phrase is Lingala (Congo) for: 'Your tongue is a sword and your legs are vegetables'  which is certainly true of me, I don't know about you.

** Don't try this at home, children, it frightens your parents.


  1. 'Who takes a hut, also takes the rats and cockroaches.' How true.

    Wonderful proverbs. Thank you!

  2. 'A snake in the grass isn't as much fun as one in the bush.' (Norfolk)

  3. I tried briefly to invent a proverb, normally one of my favourite sort of games, but this morning my brain is a little booze-befuddled and all I can come up with is

    The tree is very leafy.

  4. Ellie - I sense a story behind your response - bad hut experience?

    Dave - Hmmmm. *Nods sagely and strokes imaginary beard*

    Fran - Ta! 8-)

    TimT - That does feel a bit 'unfinished' - how about The tree is very leafy, but the leaves hide its bark?

    I just remembered another one I heard years ago - probably not African: When you're up to your arse in crocodiles, it's difficult to remember the original plan was to drain the swamp

  5. I think I'll go with the original and make up a few more -