Africa

Africa's proverb of the day

  • 4 October 2016
  • From the section Africa
A woman and her child in Casamance, Senegal Photo: Manuel Toledo Image copyright Manuel Toledo
Image caption "A baby on its mother's back does not know the way is long"

Proverbs are an integral part of African culture. Passed on from generation to generation for centuries, they are still in wide use today and are very much part of everyday speech.

Proverbs are used to illustrate ideas, reinforce arguments and deliver messages of inspiration, consolation, celebration and advice.

The great Nigerian author Chinua Achebe once wrote: "Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten."

Please use the form at the end of this page to send in your wise words.

Your proverbs from the last few months:

Friday 30 September

The person who today jumps across the river will one day wade through it. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Wangui Mugo, Endarasha, Kenya

Thursday 29 September

By working together, the teeth can chew the meat. A Luganda proverb from Uganda sent by Henry Gombya, Farnborough, UK

Wednesday 28 September

Don't leave your old mat for a new one which you see in passing. A Swahili proverb sent by Anderson Maina, Nairobi, Kenya

Tuesday 27 September

If a leaf stays long on soap, it becomes soap too. A Yoruba proverb sent by Dayo Adekunle, Ilorin, Nigeria

Monday 26 September

If you kill a frog in a well, you kill the community. An Ateso proverb sent by Olanyo Joseph, Orungo, Uganda

Friday 23 September

A roofer's house leaks. A Ndebele/Zulu proverb sent by Sondlo Leonard Mhlaba, Boston, US

Thursday 22 September

You do not enter an open door, you enter an open face. A Somali proverb sent by Bukhari Sankus, Mogadishu, Somalia

Wednesday 21 September

You are beautiful but learn to work for you cannot eat your beauty. A Congolese proverb sent by Rech Lony Both, Kampala, Uganda

Tuesday 20 September

A tree alone cannot withstand a storm. A Twi proverb sent by Napoleon Dotse Woka, Senchi Ferry, Ghana

Monday 19 September

Work is the medicine for poverty. A Yoruba proverb sent by Simeon Akpanudo, Lagos, Nigeria

Friday 16 September

Coffee and love taste best when hot. Sent by Kuma Hora, Finfinnee, Oromia, Ethiopia

Thursday 15 September

It is famine that makes one to eat the fruits of strange trees. A Yoruba proverb sent by Dapo Tiwo, Lagos, Nigeria

Wednesday 14 September

A naked man does not put his hands in his pocket. Sent by Adamu, Debiso, Ghana

Tuesday 13 September

If you watch your pot, your food will not burn. Sent by Thon Makuei Deng Yak, Kampala, Uganda

Monday 12 September

A camel beaten by a left-handed man has no safe side. A Somali proverb sent by Ibrahim A Issack, Nairobi, Kenya

Friday 9 September

The youth can walk faster but the elder knows the road. Sent by Ebenezer Nana Botsio, Accra, Ghana

Thursday 8 September

There is no difference between a thief and his accomplice. A Kikuyu proverb sent by George Omari, Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday 7 September

One day's rain cannot get deep into the soil. An Ibibio proverb from Nigeria sent by Blessing Umoudit, London, UK

Tuesday 6 September

Little by little the bird builds its nest. A Bambara proverb from Mali sent by Laia Dosta, Teia, Catalonia, Spain

Monday 5 September

If you want to keep cattle you must sleep like them. A Kinyarwanda proverb sent by Angelique Gatsinzi, Nottingham, UK

Friday 2 September

The antelope that likes life does not enter the mosque of the hunters. A Somali proverb sent by Shariff Ahmed, Dadaab, Kenya

Thursday 1 September

A fox does not escort a chicken. An Acholi proverb sent by Maryano Otto, Kampala, Uganda

Wednesday 31 August

If you want the best sweet potato you must dig deeper. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Bella Mwangi, Nairobi, Kenya

Tuesday 30 August

The camel's tail is far from the ground. A Hausa proverb sent by Shamsuddeen Saminu, Dorayi, Kano, Nigeria

Monday 29 August

If your enemy has thrown the only spear he had at you, it means that he doesn't fear you. Sent by Vairi Natale Gbiiti, Tombura, South Sudan

Friday 26 August

The lion which moves silently is the one that eats meat. A Swahili proverb sent by Lopeny Tajiri, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Thursday 25 August

The person who is afflicted with illness has a hundred advisers. A Somali proverb sent by Abdulkadir Shire, London, UK, and Ibrahim A Issack, Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday 24 August

It takes time before a child who hurls insults at an iroko tree is haunted by the tree spirit. A Yoruba proverb sent by Mohammed Saheed Bello, London, UK

Tuesday 23 August

The path does not close on a man with a machete. Sent Byokwerowat Nyero Michael, Gulu, Uganda

Monday 22 August

Once the mushroom has sprouted from the earth, there is no turning back. A Luo proverb sent by James Otieno Ouma, Homabay, Kenya

Friday 19 August

The venom of the viper does nothing to the back of the tortoise. Sent by Funwi Julius, Bamenda, Cameroon

Thursday 18 August

Those who love each other need only a small place. A Luganda proverb sent by Emmanuel Ssebadduka, Kampala, Uganda

Wednesday 17 August

He who adorns himself knows to what sort of dance he is going. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Bella Mwangi, Kenya

Tuesday 16 August

The right time to slap a king is when a fly sits on his cheek. Sent by Machar Malek, Rumbek, South Sudan

Monday 15 August

The child who is sent by his father to steal, breaks down the door. An Igbo proverb sent by Damasus Odinkaru, Orlu, Nigeria

Friday 12 August

No matter how far the town is, there is another one beyond it. A Fulani proverb sent by Sofa Dominic, Kaduna, Nigeria

Thursday 11 August

Whenever you provide support to the plantain tree, provide equal support to the banana tree. An Ashanti proverb sent by Dawereso Boateng from Asante-Akyem, Agogo, Ghana, and Emmanuel Oscar from Detroit, Michigan, US

Wednesday 10 August

The wisdom of the elderly is a cure. An Etxuabo proverb sent by Gabriel DeBarros, Quelimane, Mozambique

Tuesday 9 August

Don't divide with your teeth what you won't eat. An Urhobo proverb sent by Michael Esegba, Ughelli, Nigeria

Monday 8 August

To measure how big the chicken is, first remove its feathers. Sent by Ernest Mulenga, Mufulira, Zambia

Friday 5 August

Someone who selects coconuts with great care ends up getting a bad one. A Swahili proverb sent by Samuel Bond, Arusha, Tanzania

Thursday 4 August

There is no venom like that of the tongue. Sent by Wilson Banda, Lilongwe, Malawi

Wednesday 3 August

Promises, like days, soon become due. A Luhya proverb sent by Wejuli Wabwire, Kampala, Uganda

Tuesday 2 August

It is the wise we send on errands, and not the long-legged. An Akan proverb sent by Acheampong Owoahene Kwame, Kumasi, Ghana

Monday 1 August

Whenever a person wakes up is his own morning. An Igbo proverb sent by Tunji Babalola and Ikechukwu Iyeke, both from Nigeria

Friday 29 July

Notwithstanding the pain, women still long to give birth. A Swahili proverb sent by Charles Tanui, Eldoret, Kenya

Thursday 28 July

The world is a bone which you can only bite and leave. A Bemba proverb sent by Kelvin Kasongo, Kitwe, Zambia

Wednesday 27 July

He who takes responsibility becomes the target of the people. A Somali proverb sent by Abdi Rahman Young, Mogadishu, Somalia

Tuesday 26 July

When a tree falls on a yam farm and kills the farm's owner, you don't waste time counting the number of ruined yams. An Igala proverb sent by Omaye Joseph Itodo, Agojeju-odoh, Kogi, Nigeria

Monday 25 July

Before it rains, the bathhouse is already wet. Sent by Pious Kofi Bentum and Kweku Efrim, both from Ghana

Friday 22 July

It by persistence that the termites build their nest. A Luo proverb sent by Michael Oduor Wod Ajuang, Siaya, Kenya

Thursday 21 July

A goat owned by two people sleeps outside. Sent by Julian Dzikunu, Ghana

Wednesday 20 July

A family is like a forest, when you are outside it is dense, when you're inside you see that each tree has its place. Sent by Joseph Macfoy, Kenema, Sierra Leone

Tuesday 19 July

If you treat your child as a king you will be the first one to pay tax. A Mandinka proverb sent by Modou ceesay, Banjul, The Gambia; Mustapha Minteh, Yaoundé, Cameroon, and Khalipha Sanneh, Madison, Wisconsin, US

Monday 18 July

You don't need a mirror to see what you are wearing on your hand. An Igbo proverb sent by Chinaecherem Kenneth Michael, Enegu, Nigeria

Friday 15 July

Best friends killed each other over a hare's head. A Tonga proverb sent by Siwoh, Choma, Zambia

Thursday 14 July

The one who knows the path is the one who has been treading it. A Shona proverb sent by Hatidani Tondoya, Cape Town, South Africa

Wednesday 13 July

A fish and bird may fall in love but they cannot build a home together. Sent by Jersy Solomon Kwsei, Koforidua, Ghana

Tuesday 12 July

A fat sheep does not worry about the drought. A Somali proverb sent by Ahmed Lag, Garissa, Kenya

Monday 11 July

One sees all sorts of knives on the day an elephant dies. A Yoruba proverb sent by Sammy-King Bass, Calabar, Nigeria

Friday 8 July

It is because of hot food that nature gave us two cheeks instead of one. Sent by Wabwire Maron, Wobulenzi, Uganda

Thursday 7 July

It is better to get nine now, than perhaps ten later. A Swahili proverb sent by Vin, Mwanza, Tanzania

Wednesday 6 July

The load is lighter when two people carry it. An Akan proverb sent by Mercy Levin, Trelleborg, Sweden

Tuesday 5 July

By crawling, a child learns to stand. Sent by Babangida Sani, Zamfara, Nigeria

Monday 4 July

The weight of the head is only felt by its owner. A Luo proverb sent by Fred Obondo, Nairobi, Kenya

Friday 1 July

Persistence is more effective than charms. A Tiv proverb sent by Iorhen Kwange, Gboko, Benue State, Nigeria


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