10 African proverbs to live by

A great man once said that proverbs are to Africa and Africans what roundhouse kicks are to Chuck Norris. Alright, so I’m not great yet but I think most will agree that if ever there was a list of things that highlight the values of a community, proverbs would be somewhere in that list.

Proverbs are common the world over as tools with which to live by or as a more intelligent replacement for the statement ‘I told you so’. Wherever you are, you have probably come across them in some shape or form. This week I chose to share 10 African proverbs or sayings that I have come across.

1. ‘Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. So in Africa it doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running’ – Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat (2005–2006), Ch. 2, (p. 137 in the 2006 edition).

2. ‘A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches.’ (Through experience I have found that replacing the word ‘chick’ with ‘guy’ still rings true).

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

4. ‘No one tests the depth of a river with both feet.’ (Except George Bush)

5. ‘No man stung by a bee, sets off to destroy all beehives’ (Except George Bush) – (Kenya).

6. ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.’ (West African proverb). Case in point, Darth Vader.

Please note I know it is women’s month and I am not being sexist or anything but… (Please insert statement with sexist undertones here…)
7. ‘No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yam’ – Nigeria. (so guys don’t get your women angry if you want your food)

8. ‘It requires a lot of carefulness to kill the fly that perches on the scrotum’, a lot. – Ghana.

9. ‘If the throat can grant passage to a knife, the anus should wonder how to expel it’ – Seychelles. I’m going out on a limb here but am I wrong to suggest that it would have been easier to just say ‘I do my bit you do yours?’Just saying.

And for those of you that need an explanation of any of the above proverbs (there are always people who do) the last one is especially for you.

10. ‘When the fool is told a proverb, its meaning has to be explained to him.’

Of Chickens and diversity

I thought the Nando’s Diversity campaign, where the flame-grilled chicken brand forces South Africans to question xenophobia and intolerance was wonderful.

As a foreigner living in South Africa it struck a chord with me. I agree with the assertion that, if we go back far enough in time, many people who now exclusively regard themselves as South Africans were all once foreigners in South Africa. A bit like how many Americans who now regard themselves as ‘true’ or ‘real’ Americans were foreigners in the USA. This applies to many other countries across the world. Good work Nandos!

Daft Definitions

love verb (LIKE SOMEONE)
/lʌv/ v [T]
to like another adult or child very much and be romantically and sexually attracted to them, or to have strong feelings of liking that person- usually shown by beating that person (usually a woman/child) to a pulp.

sex noun ( ACTIVITY)
/seks/ n
[U] sexual activity involving penetration of the vagina by the penis- any woman’s vagina, because men are entitled to sex whenever they want.

diplomacy noun
/dɪˈpləʊ.mə.si/ /-ˈploʊ-/ n [U]
• the management of relationships between countries
•approving skill in dealing with people without offending or upsetting them,
e.g Through diplomacy they persuaded her not leave her husband over one beating, lest it angers him and his family.

rape verb
/reɪp/ v [I or T]
to force someone to have sex when they are unwilling, using violence or threatening behaviour-
usually done to deserving women and young girls who provoke men with their short skirts and other revealing clothes.

silence noun (NO SPEAKING)
/ˈsaɪ.lənt s/ n
• [U] a state of not speaking or writing or making a noise
•[C] a period of time in which there is complete quiet or no speaking.

As National Women’s Day approaches in South Africa it is important to remember that as a society it is our beliefs that excuse, condone and justify violence against women and children. Even in 2012 it is these attitudes that keep this violence alive. As Africans we have the power to redefine norms. Don’t be silent speak out and use it.

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