All the many different types of African people have a rich cultural heritage that has survived colonialism, conflict and many other issues.
Except for Egypt, there may not be huge libraries of written history or literature dating back for hundreds or even thousands of years in Africa, like there is on other continents. But there was a wealth of wisdom that was handed down verbally through the generations.
Some of this “wisdom of the elders” is expressed in proverbs – little bits of human truth that can make us go “hmmm” – or have a good laugh. African countries have many of these in all the many and various languages. Some of them still in common use today!
1. Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.
Meaning: You don’t jump straight into a situation without first thinking about it.
2. Knowledge is like a garden: If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.
Meaning: If you do not put the knowledge you have to use, you cannot expect to benefit from it.
3. Sugarcane is sweetest at its joint.
Meaning: The good things of life may appear difficult to achieve but in the end, it is worth it. (The joint of the sugarcane is the hardest part of the stick).
4. Don’t set sail using someone else’s star.
Meaning: Avoid imitating someone else. You will end up in the person’s destination or fail entirely. Just because someone else has been successful in what (s)he should not make you do the same thing and expect to have a successful turnout.
5. A restless feet may walk into a snake pit.
Meaning: If someone is busy doing something without purpose, it is easy for him/her to get into trouble.
6. A chick that will grow into a hen can be spotted the very day it hatches.
Meaning: Someone’s future can easily be foreseen through the character and tell-tale signs it exhibits today.
7. A roaring lion kills no one.
Meaning: You cannot achieve or gain anything by merely sitting around and just talking about it with no action.
8. Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle.
Meaning: It is wrong to insult someone who is taking care of care of you.
9. When a king has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful.
Meaning: If the circumstances and people around someone are good, end turns out the same.
10. The rain does not fall on one roof.
Meaning: Trouble respects no one.
11. Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character follows.
Meaning: What defines a man is his character. Both are inseparable.
12. Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
Meaning: Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Look at what caused those mistakes so you don’t have to repeat them.
13. A horse has four legs, yet it falls often.
Meaning: A horse is used metaphorically as a strong person who is seen as successful in life but many people fail to see the many mistakes they have made in life. Even the strongest people in life sometimes have to take a blow and fall.
14. Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.
Meaning: While on the quest for knowledge especially with education becoming a critical tool for survival in today’s world, we should not forget to use wisdom which is inborn. People should not rely on someone for wisdom; rather seek out answers to become wise.
15. A short person hangs his bag where his hand can reach.
Meaning: A short man is metaphorical of you and your resources at the moment. Don’t stretch your finances in order to compete with others who have advantages in life.