African proverbs are much more than artistic sayings. They symbolise real life situations in just a few words that have great meaning.

In cultures, historically without literature, proverbs gave an understanding of cultural values and historical insights. Consisting of rhyme or clever allusions they are entertaining, historically popular and remain as popular in African culture today.

Here are some of my favourite African proverbs, many of them have great truth and are loved by Malawians. Here is one the most popular and my favourite ‘knowledge is like a garden, if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested’. This African proverb is popular because it conveys wisdom and truth in people’s minds. It simply means that if you don’t make an effort to acquire knowledge then you should not expect to have it and if you do not put the knowledge you have to good use, you cannot expect to gain anything from it.

Proverb: ‘Don’t set sail using someone else’s star’
Meaning: You should avoid copying someone else. Just because someone has been successful in what he or she has done won’t necessarily work for you.

Proverb: ‘Restless feet may walk into a snake’.
Meaning: This proverb suggests that if someone is busy doing nothing or is involved in doing something he doesn’t know anything about, it is easy for him to get into trouble.

Proverb: ‘If a child washes his hands he could eat with kings’
Meaning: If you prepare and allow yourself to be well trained when you have the opportunity, you will achieve a lot and be favoured in due course.

Proverbs: ‘Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped’.
Meaning: This means don’t look at your mistakes, focus on what caused the mistake otherwise you may repeat the mistake.

Proverb: ‘Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him’.
Meaning: What defines a man is his character which is inseparable from him wherever he goes.

Proverb: ‘A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches’.
Meaning: You can easily foresee the future of something through the character and the tell-tale signs it exhibits today.

Proverbs play an important part in African cultures all across the continent. The beauty of proverbs is the versatility of their meaning, everyone can relate to them in some way and on some level.

African proverbs convey wisdom, truth, a discovery of ideas and life lessons.

Here are some more proverbs you might enjoy
African Proverbs: 10 African proverbs that teach us about friendship
African Proverbs: 10 African Proverbs about Community and Unity
African Proverbs: 13 African Proverbs about Wisdom
African Proverbs: 21 African Proverbs about Food

What’s your favourite proverb, email it to us info@thenews.mw

Regina Maere

I was born in Mangochi and educated in Dedza at Umbwi Secondary School, Following Secondary School I attended The Institute of Journalism, Lilongwe. Inspired by great writers, with a passion for writing it is my ambition to inspire others too through writing.

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