Some African Proverbs and their meanings

african-grandpaI am a true son of my father because in Africa, a crab does not beget a bird. According to my grandfather, it doesn't make much sense to ask the hunter how was his hunt especially if you saw him come in with a bunch of mushrooms in his hand. I pray for the day when lions will get their own historians but until that day, the tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter including even the one who came home with mushrooms. It is because of hot food that nature gave us two cheeks instead of one and because I am a wise son of my father, my sheep never gets loose twice. I can see you have started drawing a big snake in the sand but please don't forget to add legs to the snake after you have finished drawing it.

 Proverbs are words of wisdom and wisdom is life. Proverbs are words full of hidden truths and deeper meanings. Africa is the land of proverbs. Not just proverbs but proverbs with meanings. The Bible, The Quran and all the other great books are full of nothing but proverbs. Why are these holy books full of proverbs and not plain languages we all could easily understand? Well, Africans have the answer. According to the Ashantis, "we speak to a wise man in proverbs and not in plain language". The holy books are holy because they are full of wisdom and that also explains why the holy books are full of nothing but proverbs. Proverbs are full of wisdom and Wisdom is life.

According to the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran, God is omnipresent which means God or Allah is everywhere. My great grandfather knew this long before both the Bible and the Quran came to  Africa. According to my great grandfather, God is like the air we breathe so "if you have a message for God, talk to the wind"

According to my great grandparents, "the easiest way to eat an elephant is to cut him up into tiny pieces". What this means is that, the best way to solve a difficult problem is to solve it bit by bit. This is very similar to the famous proverb "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

According to the Zulus, "a tree is known by its fruits". In other words, we shall know them by their deeds or the end justifies the means.

My grandmother used to advise me to mind my own business and to stay away from trouble. In other words, I should not interfere in matters that do not concern me. However, my grandmother used to do so in proverbs and in one of her favorite proverbs, "there would be no gunshots in the forest if the tortoise and the snail were the only animals in the forest". The tortoise and the snail are very quiet animals who mind every little step they take. Although they are very slow, their quietness, carefulness, and solitude lives protect them all the time.

According to my great grandparents, "it takes a village to raise a child". What this means is that, for a society or community to prosper, every member within that society or community must do their parts. In other words, for a project or an assignment to be successful, all members must work together by doing their parts.

"However long the night, dawn will break". No situation or condition is permanent. In other words, there is hope for a better tomorrow.

In the Bible, it is written that God helps those who help themselves. The Bible came to Africa just a few centuries ago. However, my great grandparents knew this long before the Bible came to Africa. In Africa, "he that climbs a good tree gets a push". Also, "a tree that bears good fruits has sticks under it".

The Bible says, "do unto others what you want them to do unto you. My great grandparents knew this long before the Bible came to Africa. According to my great grandfather, "Take a closer Look at your hand when you are eating a monkey's hand". In other words, It could happen to you too so do unto others what you want them to do unto you.

Some were born on top of the mountain and they need not struggle much to reach the sun. Others were born into deeper vallies and it takes alot even to reach the level ground.Some people were born with silver spoons in their mouths while some of us were born with not even wooden spoons in our mouths . Nobody was born to be poor. However, not so many people born into absolute poverty are able to escape the poverty trap. We do not enjoy suffering but we were born into it and sometimes there is very little we can do about it. According to the Akans, "you may not like the taste in your mouth but that is where you always lick"

"You cannot shave someone in his absence". If I do something wrong, please say it to my face and not when I'm gone. If I do something you do not like, please do not say it at my back. Do say it to my face so I can correct my mistakes.

"You don't pick birds' nests on the way, when you are going to a city full of birds." Take it easy in what you are doing and don't rush. In other words, what you are looking for is coming to you so just take your time, relax and it will come to you.

According to my great grandfather, "He who is bitten by a snake fears an earthworm". A Snake is a very poisonous animal while the earthworm is harmless but because both the snake and the earthworm crawl on their bellies, it is normal to fear an earthworm once bitten by a snake. What this means is that, because of what one has been through already, one is taking extra care. In other words, because of what I've been through, I am very careful this time around.

According to the Ashantis, "two heads are better than one". What this means is that, working together as a group is far better than working alone. In other words, sharing problems and solving those problems with others is far better than keeping it to yourself and dying trying to solve a problem that is far bigger than you.