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Wisdom from Africa: African Proverbs and Quotes

Updated on January 15, 2015

Proverbs: A Tool of Learning and Entertainment

Proverbs and sayings are found in almost every culture in the world. In honor of Black History month I decided to dedicate this lens to African proverbs. There is a world of wisdom contained in each proverb and we can learn a lot about African culture from them. But even more so if we pay attention proverbs can teach us not to commit the same errors as our ancestors. At the very least proverbs can be a source of entertainment if not a learning tool. It is my hope that the African proverbs in this lens will both teach and entertain you. The wise create proverbs for fools to learn, not to repeat. ~African Proverb

Image: Bwa African Mask, Quotes Cards at zazzle.com/injete

Sunset Dreams African Metal Art by Injete Chesoni
Sunset Dreams African Metal Art by Injete Chesoni

January: Inspirational Quotes

African Quotes and Proverbs

1. However long the night, the dawn will break.

2. It is not what you are called, but what you answer to. - African Proverb

3. By trying often, the monkey learns to jump from the tree. ~ Ugandan Proverb

4. When the door is closed, you must learn to slide across the crack of the sill. ~Yoruba Proverb

5. You always learn a lot more when you lose than when you win. ~African Quotes

6. For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.

7. To get lost is to learn the way.

8. By crawling a child learns to stand.

9. What you help a child to love can be more important than what you help him to learn. ~African Proverb

10. One who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom. ~African Proverb

11. If you close your eyes because of the bad people around you, you will not see the good people passing by.

12. The eyes that have seen the ocean cannot be satisfied by a mere lagoon.

13. To try to to fail, is not laziness.

14. Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.

15. It is not work that kills, but worry.

16. The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes didn't have tears.

17. We desire to bequest two things to our children -- the first one is roots; the other one is wings. ~Sudanese Proverb

18. Those who accomplish great things pay attention to little ones. – Malawi


Black History and African History Books

Family Unity African Art Postcard by Injete at Zazzle
Family Unity African Art Postcard by Injete at Zazzle

February: Love and Marriage Quotes

African Love Quotes

1. Where there is love there is no darkness. ~Burundian Proverb

2. Coffee and love taste best when hot. ~Ethiopian Proverb

3. To be able to love other people you must be able to love yourself. ~African Proverb

4. Love never gets lost it's only kept. ~African Proverb

5. Happiness requires something to do, something to love and something to hope for. ~Swahili Proverb

6. If there is cause to hate someone, the cause to love has just begun. - Wolof Proverb

7. If love is a sickness, patience is the remedy. ~Cameroonian Proverb

8. Love is like a cough you can't hold it back. ~African Proverb

9. He who loves the vase loves also what is inside. ~African Proverb

10. Pretend you are dead and you will see who really loves you. ~African Proverb

11. To love the king is not bad, but a king who loves you is better. ~Wolof Proverb

12. It's much easier to fall in love than to stay in love. ~African Proverb

13. A happy man marries the girl he loves, but a happier man loves the girl he marries. - African Proverb

14. If you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains as is. - Egyptian Proverb

15. Many are the roads that do not lead to the heart. - Moroccan Proverb

16. Never marry a woman who has bigger feet than you. - Mozambique

17. One thread for the needle, one love for the heart. - Sudanese Proverb

18. Love, like rain, does not choose the grass on which it falls. - Zulu Proverb

19. People who love one another do not dwell on each other's mistakes. - Kenya

20. A letter from the heart can be read on the face. - Swahili

21. Love has to be shown by deeds not words. - Swahili

22. If money were to be found up in the trees, most people would be married to monkeys. - African Proverb

23. Do not desire a woman with beautiful breasts, if you have no money. - South African

24. If you are ugly you must either learn to dance or make love. - Zimbabwean Proverb

25. Love is a despot who spares no one. ~Namibian Proverb


Beware Thinking Man: African Metal Art Card by Injete
Beware Thinking Man: African Metal Art Card by Injete

March: Wisdom Quotes

African Quotes and Proverbs

1. Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it. - Akan Proverb

2. Wisdom is like fire. People take it from others. - Hema (DRC) Proverb

3. Wisdom does not come overnight. - Somali

4. Wisdom is wealth. - Swahili

5. The fool speaks, the wise man listens. ~Ethiopian Proverb

6. The heart of the wise man lies quiet like limpid water. ~ Cameroon

7. Only a wise person can solve a difficult problem. ~Akan Proverb

8. Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand. ~Guinean Proverb

9. A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning. ~Kenyan Proverb

10. In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and foolish build dams. ~Nigerian

11. If you are filled with pride, then you will have no room for wisdom.

12. A wise person will always find a way. ~Tanzanian Proverb

13. Nobody is born wise. ~African Proverb

14. Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden. - Akan

Image: Thinking Man African Metal Art Card by Injete

Circle of Sisters: Metal African Art Painting by Injete
Circle of Sisters: Metal African Art Painting by Injete

April: Community Quotes

African Unity Quotes

1. Unity is strength, division is weakness. - Swahili

2. It takes a village to raise a child. - African proverb

3. Many hands make light work. - Haya (Tanzania)

4. Where there are many, nothing goes wrong. - Swahili

5. Two ants do not fail to pull one grasshopper. - Haya Tanzania

6. Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won't eat you. - African proverb

7. If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

8. Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. - Bondei

9. A single bracelet does not jingle. - Congo

10. A single stick may smoke, but it will not burn.


Soul Sisters, African Women's Art by Injete Chesoni
Soul Sisters, African Women's Art by Injete Chesoni

May: African Family Quotes

1. A family is like a forest, when you are outside it is dense, when you are inside you see that each tree has its place.

2. A family tie is like a tree, it can bend but it cannot break.

3. Brothers love each other when they are equally rich.

4. He who earns calamity, eats it with his family.

5. A united family eats from the same plate. - Baganda

6. If I am in harmony with my family, that's success. - Ute

7. Dine with a stranger but save your love for your family. - Ethiopian

8. The old woman looks after the child to grow its teeth and the young one in turn looks after the old woman when she loses her teeth. - Akan

9. Children are the reward of life.

10. There is no fool who is disowned by his family.

11. Home affairs are not talked about on the public square.

12. If relatives help each other, what evil can hurt them?

Image: Soul Sisters Magnet, African Art by Injete at Zazzle.com

Friends, African Metal Art Painting by Injete
Friends, African Metal Art Painting by Injete

June: Friendship Quotes

African Proverbs and Quotes

1. To be without a friend is to be poor indeed. - Tanzania

2. Hold a true friend with both hands.

3. The friends of our friends are our friends.- Congo

4. A friend is someone you share the path with.

5. Show me your friend and I will show you your character.

6. Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you.

7. Between true friends even water drunk together is sweet enough.

8. A small house will hold a hundred friends.

9. A close friend can become a close enemy.

10. Bad friends will prevent you from having good friends. – Gabon

Image: Friends, African Metal Art Painting by Injete

Blue Lady, Abstract Art by Injete Chesoni
Blue Lady, Abstract Art by Injete Chesoni

July: Peace Quotes

African Peace Quotes

1. Peace is costly but it is worth the expense. ~Kenyan Proverb

2. War has no eyes - Swahili Saying

3. When a king has good counselors, his reign is peaceful. ~Ashanti Proverb

4. Peace does not make a good ruler. ~Botswana Proverb

5. A fight between grasshoppers is a joy to the crow. - Lesotho

6. There can be no peace without understanding. ~Senegalese Proverb

7. Milk and honey have different colors, but they share the same house peacefully. ~ African quotes

8. If you can't resolve your problems in peace, you can't solve war. - Somalia

9. When there is peace in the country, the chief does not carry a shield. ~Ugandan Proverb

10. When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled. - Swahili Saying

11. Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far. - West African Proverb

Image: Blue Lady, Abstract Art by Injete Chesoni

African Map Love Heart Holiday Ornament at Zazzle.com
African Map Love Heart Holiday Ornament at Zazzle.com

August: African Leadership Quotes

1. He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk. - Malawi

2. An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. - Ghanaian Proverb

3. He who is destined for power does not have to fight for it. - Ugandan Proverb

4. Do not forget what is to be a sailor because of being a captain yourself. - Tanzania

5. Without a leader, black ants are confused. - Ugandan Proverb

6. He who refuses to obey cannot command. - Kenyan Proverb

7. He who fears the sun will not become chief. - Ugandan Proverb

8. A large chair does not make a king. - Sudanese Proverb

9. Because he lost his reputation, he lost a kingdom. - Ethiopian Proverb

10. Where a woman rules, streams run uphill. - Ethiopia

11. A leader who does not take advice is not a leader. - Kenya

12. If the cockroach wants to rule over the chicken, then it must hire the fox as a body-guard. - Sierra Leone

Image: African Map Love Heart Holiday Ornament at Zazzle.com

Angel in Green, African Girl Painting by Injete Chesoni
Angel in Green, African Girl Painting by Injete Chesoni

September: Education Quotes

African Proverbs about Learning

1. Learning expands great souls. ~Namibian Proverb

2. Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone. ~Moroccan Proverb

3. You learn how to cut down trees by cutting them down. ~Bateke Proverb

4. Wealth, if you use it, comes to an end; learning, if you use it, increases. ~Swahili Proverb

5. He who learns, teaches. ~Ethiopian Proverb

6. If you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accidents. ~African Proverb

7. When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him. ~Ashanti Proverb

8. Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off. ~African Proverb

9. Advice is a stranger; if he's welcome he stays for the night; if not, he leaves the same day. ~Malagasy Proverb

10. Traveling is learning. ~Kenyan Proverb

11. The wise create proverbs for fools to learn, not to repeat. ~African Proverb

12. Where there are experts there will be no lack of learners. ~Swahili Proverb

13. By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed. ~Ashanti Proverb

14. What you learn is what you die with. ~African Proverb

15. You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. ~Congolese Proverb

Image: Angel in Green, African Girl Painting by Injete Chesoni

Green Snail, Metal African Art by Injete Chesoni
Green Snail, Metal African Art by Injete Chesoni

October: Patience Quotes

1. Hurry hurry has no blessings. - Swahili

2. To run is not necessarily to arrive. - Swahili

3. Patience can cook a stone

4. A patient man will eat ripe fruit.

5. Patience is the key which solves all problems. - Sudanese

6. Patience is the mother of a beautiful child. - Bantu

7. Patience puts a crown on the head. - Ugandan

8. Patience attracts happiness; it brings near that which is far. - Swahili

9. At the bottom of patience one finds heaven.

10. However long the night, the dawn will break.

11. A patient person never misses a thing. - Swahili

12. Always being in a hurry does not prevent death, neither does going slowly prevent living. - Ibo

Image: Green Snail, Metal African Art by Injete Chesoni

Three Flirts, Metal Art Card by Injete Chesoni
Three Flirts, Metal Art Card by Injete Chesoni

November: African Dance Quotes

1. When the music changes, so does the dance. - Nigerian Proverb

2. Even the fall of a dancer is a somersault. ~Senegalese Proverb

3. Even the best dancer on the stage must retire sometime. ~African Proverb

4. A child brought up where there is always dancing cannot fail to dance. - Nyanja

5. Leave alone a dance you are unable to perform. - Lega (DRC)

6. Even without drumbeats, banana leaves dance. ~African Proverb

7. If everyone is going to dance, who, then, would watch? ~Cameroonian Proverb

8. Dance in the sun, but turn your back to the clouds. ~Zimbabwean Proverb

9. If you are ugly, learn how to dance. ~Zambian Proverb

10. In a fiddler's house, all are dancers. ~Rwandan Proverb

11. A woman is never old when it comes to the dance she knows. ~African Proverb

12. The rich man never dances badly. ~Rwandan Proverb

13. Dance, father, people's eyes don't eat, they just stare. ~Lamba Proverb

14. If you can walk you can dance, if you can talk you can sing. ~Zimbabwe

15. The man who can't dance says the band can't play. ~Guinean Proverb

16. If you can't dance well, you'd better not get up. ~Nigerian Proverb

17. Bad dancing does not break an engagement. ~Kenyan Proverb

Image: Three Flirts, Metal Art Card by Injete Chesoni

Praying Hands, Religious Metal Art Card by Injete
Praying Hands, Religious Metal Art Card by Injete

December: Spiritual Quotes

1. When an enemy digs a grave for you, God gives you an emergency exit. - Burundi Proverb

2. If God breaks your leg, He will teach you how to limp. - Ghana

3. When God cooks, you don't see smoke. - Kaonde (Zambia) Proverb

4. God is a great eye. He sees everything in the world.

5. He who trusts in God lacks nothing. - Swahili

6. God does not conceal a hypocrite or liar. - Swahili

7. Where there are many people, there God is. - Swahili

8. A house that is built by God will be completed. - Ethiopia

9. God exercises vengeance in silence. - Burundi and Rwanda

10. God goes above any shield. - Rwanda

11. When you throw a stone at God, it lands right on top of your head.

12. It is only God that saves a cow that has no tail from flies.

13. God is never in a hurry, but He is always there at the proper time. - Ethiopia

14. God is sharper than a razor. - Kenya

15. God knows the things of tomorrow. - Burundi

16. God is our neighbour when our brother is absent. - Swahili

17. God gives nothing to those who keep their arms crossed. - African Proverb

18. When one is in trouble, one remembers God. - Nigeria

Image: Praying Hands, Religious Metal Art Card by Injete Chesoni

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    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This is a wonderful list of great quotes. I especially love this one: "If you close your eyes because of the bad people around you, you will not see the good people passing by."

    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 4 years ago

      Wonderful collection of brilliant African quotes, proverbs and sayings! I've picked a favorite: "However long the night, the dawn will break." Fantastic lens! Sundae ;-)

    • WhiteTigerKungFu profile image

      WhiteTigerSchools 4 years ago from 1990 Westwood Blvd Suite 105, Los Angeles, CA 90025

      Love this lens. I have always admired the wisdom of African people. Have you read "the Poisonwood Bible?". It's an amazing book packed with wisdom from Africa. I enjoyed that book very much.

    • nikitakapoor profile image

      nikitakapoor 4 years ago

      Good stuff, thanks for sharing! :)

      Also do checkout my lens on Andaman some time and please do let me know how do you feel about them.

      https://hubpages.com/travel/what-to-see-in-himacha...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i have another 1: He gave his hands to nailed for your sins; what did your hands do?

      dats 4m me

    • Zhana21 profile image

      Zhana 5 years ago

      This is a really lovely lens. Very positive. It's great to see this lens on Squidoo.

    • profile image

      acregmed 5 years ago

      Nice lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      God indeed bless Africans with great wisdom but the problem is that we haven't acknowledge that; and until we start looking inwardly, we can never see the great stuffs in us. The foundation of Education is in Africa, but today we have been forced to believe another thing; it has now become "if you want to hide anything from the the black, put it in a book" LOOK AT THESE BEAUTIFUL QUOTES AND PROVERBS; ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING CAN COME OUT OF IT IF WE FOCUS ON THEM

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      God indeed bless Africans with great wisdom but the problem is that we haven't acknowledge that; and until we start looking inwardly, we can never see the great stuffs in us. The foundation of Education is in Africa, but today we have been forced to believe another thing; it has now become "if you want to hide anything from the the black, put it in a book" LOOK AT THESE BEAUTIFUL QUOTES AND PROVERBS; ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING CAN COME OUT OF IT IF WE FOCUS ON THEM

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 5 years ago

      Pity I didn't know this lens when I was still young -- should have learnt a lot! Nice lens about African wisdom -- blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Beautiful quotes and pictures! Great work!

    • desa999 lm profile image

      desa999 lm 5 years ago

      Love lots of the quotes and sayings here.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 5 years ago

      Very interesting, I like proverbs. Liked this one- "Never marry a woman who has bigger feet than you". (I have half a size smaller feet than my husband!)

    • profile image

      celeBritys4africA 5 years ago

      Great work! Beautiful quotes.

    • A Snow-Bey profile image

      A Snow-Bey 6 years ago

      I really enjoyed the lens and the quotes... May in particular as that is my birth month!

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 6 years ago from Florida

      Excellent lens! This will be so helpful as I teach a class on African geography.

    • JakTraks profile image

      Jacqueline Marshall 6 years ago from Chicago area

      Awesome lens. Beautiful and fun to read.

    • Injete profile image
      Author

      Injete 6 years ago

      @scar4: Hi Scar4 great advice :-)

    • Injete profile image
      Author

      Injete 6 years ago

      @GramaBarb: Hi GramaBarb thanks for stopping by I love that quote too.

    • Injete profile image
      Author

      Injete 6 years ago

      @mirandapaulbooks: Hi Miranda thanks. I visited your other lens on 1 million books for Gambia I will visit your first lens too. Welcome to Squidoo and all the best.

    • profile image

      mirandapaulbooks 6 years ago

      This is my favorite Squidoo lens thus far! I especially like the first one, "Wisdom is like a baobab tree..." I have some great photos from Gambia where we're trying to fit our arms around one...to no avail! I enjoyed reading your lens and I 'liked' it. Hoping you'll check out my very first lens, too - http://www.squidoo.com/where-is-njau-gambia - it's about a small village in The Gambia, Africa's smallest mainland country. Thanks!

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 6 years ago from Vancouver

      I love reading quotes! Here is my favorite - We desire to bequest two things to our children -- the first one is roots; the other one is wings. ~Sudanese Proverb

    • profile image

      scar4 6 years ago

      I have picked up my favorite quote: "It is not work that kills, but worry." Do worry less and smile more!

    • Injete profile image
      Author

      Injete 6 years ago

      @sara0129: Habari, thanks I am glad you found them helpful. Karibu.

    • sara0129 profile image

      Shamim Rajabali 6 years ago from Texas

      Good collection of quotes here. Was looking for these, glad I came across your lens. Asante Sana.