Ghanian Proverbs

A child who is to be successful is not reared exclusively on a bed of down. 

A cracked bell can never sound well. 

A powerful deity is the one to whom sacrifices are offered. 

An army is driven back by courage and not by insults, however many. 

By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed. 

Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle. 

Don’t expect to be offered a chair when you visit a place where the chief himself sits on the floor. 

Hate has no medicine. 

Hunger is felt by a slave and hunger is felt by a king. 

If the hunter comes back with mushrooms, don’t ask him how his hunt was. 

If the strong man has nothing else, he can at least command others. 

If you are in hiding, don’t light a fire. 

It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten. 

Misfortune does not restrict his visits to one day. 

No one tests the depth of the river with both feet. 

One falsehood spoils a thousand truths. 

Rain wets a leopard’s skin, but it does not wash out the spots. 

The left hand washes the right and the right washes the left. 

The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people. 

The responsibility of power is like holding an egg. Grasp it too tightly and it will drip through your fingers; hold it too loosely and it will drop and break. 

The soul of a rich man has no taboos. 

There is bound to be a knot in a very long string. 

We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today. 

What is bad luck for one man is good luck for another. 

When a deceiving man tells you to climb a tree, tell him to climb it first. If he finds a comfortable spot, you can follow him. 

When a king has good counselors, his reign is peaceful. 

When you are rich, you are resented; when you are poor, you are despised. 

Nigerian Proverbs

A bird does not change its feathers because the weather is bad. 

A diviner cannot accurately divine his own future. 

A farmer does not conclude by the mere look of it that a corn is unripe; he tears it open for examination. 

A friendly person is never a good-for-nothing. 

A good name is better than gold. 

A lizard that fell from the top of a tree wastes its time looking back to where it fell from; if there was anything good the lizard deserved, it could not have missed it while it was there on top of the tree. 

A person who has children does not die. 

A tiger does not have to proclaim its tigri-tude. 

An ant-hill that is destined to become a giant ant-hill will definitely become one, no matter how many times it is destroyed by elephants. 

Any wealth that takes only a market week to acquire is sure to contain in it things for which the gods will surely come to make claims. 

As long as you stay in a group, the lion will stay hungry. 

Ashes fly back into the face of him who throws them. 

Sudanese Proverbs

Even if a log lies in the water for a long time, it does not become a crocodile. 

We desire to bequest two things to our children – the first one is roots; the other one is wings. 

You can’t feed your donkey only when you need to ride it. 

Love for something makes a man blind and deaf. 

Not all the trees in the forest make good firewood. 

Our wasted days are the days we never laugh. 

If you are wearing shoes, you don’t fear the thorns. 

Someone who is pointing his finger to another person is not always aware that the four remaining fingers are pointing in his direction. 


Egyptian Proverbs

A back does not break from bending. 

A camel does not tease another camel about his humps. 

A man’s ruin lies in his tongue. 

A small house can lodge a hundred friends. 

An onion shared with a friend tastes like roast lamb. 

Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion. 

Do not rejoice over what has not yet happened. 

Education is what you know, not what’s in the book. 

Every man must act in the rhythm of his time; such is wisdom. 

For the benefit of flowers, we water the thorns, too. 

He has his own brain – he can solve his own problems. 

Honorable is the person who is aware of his power, yet refrains from inflicting bad things onto others. 

It is a wretched thing to injure a poor man. 

Learn politeness from the impolite. 

Lie to a liar, for lies are his coin; steal from a thief, for that is easy; lay a trap for a trickster and catch him at first attempt, but beware of an honest man. 

Love and let the world know; hate in silence. 

The opinion of the intelligent is better than the certainty of the ignorant. 

The tyrant is only the slave turned inside out. 

The wise man never takes a step too long for his leg. 

Uganda Proverbs

A dog with a bone in his mouth cannot bite you. 

Caution is not cowardice; even the ants march armed. 

Death is a scar that never heals. 

He who is bitten by a snake fears a lizard. 

If he has thrown the only spear he had at you, it means that he doesn’t fear you. 

If you climb up a tree, you must climb down the same tree. 

It is better that trials come to you in the beginning and you find peace afterwards than that they come to you at the end. 

Sickness accompanies a waning moon; a new moon cures disease. 

The bird that pecks at a rock trusts in the strength of its beak. 

The path to your heart’s desire is never overgrown. 


Kenyan Proverbs

A flea can trouble a lion more than the lion can harm a flea. 

A man’s actions are more important than his ancestry. 

Affairs of the home should not be discussed in the public square. 

Blind belief is dangerous. 

He who refuses to obey cannot command. 

How easy it is to defeat people who do not kindle fire for themselves. 

If a dead tree falls, it carries with it a live one. 

If you receive a gift, don’t measure it. 

Never let a hyena know how well you can bite. 

Nobody walks with another man’s gait. 

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. 

There is no phrase that doesn’t have a double meaning. 

Thunder is not yet rain. 

Try this bracelet: if it fits you, wear it; but if it hurts you, throw it away no matter how much it sparkles. 

Virtue is better than wealth. 

South African Proverbs

My “month” spent on exploring African culture may well require two months because of my heavy workload. I have five classes (I graduate from Caldwell in May), and I work at Belk (retail store) after school. Between attending classes, going to work, and doing homework, that doesn’t leave me a lot of time to read the five books I have set aside for my exploration of African literature. I’m halfway through “Ghana Must Go” by Taiye Selasi. So far, it’s an amazing book, but it is very emotionally heavy.

Anyway, for this week (maybe this week and the next, depending on whether I am able to finish “Ghana Must Go” during the week), I’m going to focus on cultural exploration through the proverbs of different African countries. Today’s focus is on South Africa.


A fool is a wise man’s ladder. 

Abundance does not spread, famine does. 

If he keeps on imitating everybody, the monkey will one day cut his own throat. 

Knowledge is like a lion; it cannot be gently embraced. 

No hill without gravestones, no valley without shadows. 

The drums of war are the drums of hunger. 

What the poor man says is not listened to. 

No one drinks medicine on behalf of a sick person.

When you have a lot to do, start with a meal.