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African Proverbs and Sayings: Wisdom For Life

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There are vast differences in life styles and beliefs among various cultures and economic groups in every society. But, there are certain truths regarding life on earth that have always rang true. These truths continue to be offered from generation to generation in the form of proverbs and sayings.

I find it interesting to see how wisdom can be expressed in so many different ways in proverbs and sayings from around the world. One day while browsing in a bookstore, I came across a little book entitled, An Anthology of Black Folk Wit, Wisdom, and Sayings. The collection was put together by Vanessa Cross, an African-American writer. She brilliantly points out that the proverbs and sayings of a people not only offer wisdom, but also insight into life in their culture. She reminds that, "Though few New World black proverbs can be directly traced to their African origins, some of the cultural roots are obvious. For instance, in Jamaica there are no monkeys or tigers, but both these animals figure in many Jamaican sayings. These proverbs are obviously of African origin."

I've chosen from this book some of the African proverbs in which I find the best advice, warnings, counsel and wisdom for life.

Proverbs About Ambition



One who cannot pick up an ant and wants to pick up an elephant will some day see his folly (Liberia - Jabo).

If you want your eggs hatched, sit on them yourself (Haiti).

Sayings Regarding Contentment



Truly there are a lot of disturbed people walking around today and who literally become angry and envious against others who have less than they do, but have peace. The following African proverb is a message that many would do well to remember:

Being happy is better than being king (West Africa - Hausa).

Wisdom Concerning The Home and Family



The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people (West Africa - Ashanti).

Hopefully, many will realize that this proverb has always rang true whether speaking of a tiny, weak nation or of a super power like the United States.

Come see me and come live with me are two different things (Virgin Islands).
Actually, this proverb could be taken further to include the reminder that even living with someone isn't the same as living "in their shoes".

Proverbs on Pride, Vanity, Respect, Temptation, Wisdom and Truth



The drum makes a great fuss because it's empty (Trinidad).

When you go to a donkey's house, don't talk about ears (Jamaica).

The devil tempts, but doesn't force (Guyana).

Fortunately, some societies don't allow evil doers to escape punishment with "the devil made me do it" excuse.

Not to know is bad, not to want to know is worse (The Gambia).
Related reading:
Popular Proverbs and Sayings That Aren't Always True: A Biblical
Perspective

Biblical Roots of Popular Proverbs and Sayings


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