Words of Wisdom: Your African proverbs from 2013

Kano's Durbar, Nigeria Image copyright Manuel Toledo

"The proverb is the horse of words. When the truth is missing we use a proverb to find it" - so goes a Yoruba proverb sent to BBC Africa this year by Kola Odofin, from Zaria, Nigeria.

This is a small selection of the many African proverbs sent to us in the last 12 months.

You can send your favourite ones for 2014 by clicking here.


"Ask for a camel when you expect to get a goat." Sent by Maurice K Amulundu, Khartoum, Sudan.

"The stick of truth may be overstretched but truth will eventually prevail." An Eritrean proverb sent by Jonathan Okbamichael, London, UK.

"Those who want rain must also accept the mud." Sent by Madaliso Nyondo and Kennie Ntonga, in Lilongwe, Malawi, and Jason Mills Lamptey, in Accra, Ghana.


"Don't set out on a journey using someone else's donkey." Sent by Wadani, Mogadishu, Somalia.

Image copyright Getty Images

"If a tree does not know how to dance, the wind will teach it." Sent by William Kokulo, in Monrovia, Liberia, and Iruka Osigwe, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Look for a black goat while it is still daytime." Sent by Ellis Gideon Gesah, in Yerima Gassol, Nigeria, and Augustine Madumere, in Zurich, Switzerland.


"Do not beat a drum with an axe." Sent by Agonbiri Argon D'Darlingboy Akonsabe, Kumasi, Ghana.

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"Beware of the naked man who offers you clothes." Sent by Janssen Moyo, Birmingham, UK.

"Don't be in a hurry to swallow when chewing is pleasant." A Nyanja proverb from Malawi sent by Kwame Asiamah, Accra, Ghana.


"Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors." Sent by Fred Lisboa Ndelezina, Lilongwe, Malawi.

Image copyright Manuel Toledo

"Do not expect to be offered a chair when you are visiting a place where the chief sits on the floor." Sent by Jalilatu Ayuba, Pretoria, South Africa.

"The day the monkey is destined to die all the trees get slippery." Sent by Gm Baraka, Nyeri, Kenya.


"If money were to be found up in the trees, most people would be married to monkeys." A Cameroonian proverb sent by Irene Agwa, Vienna, Austria.

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"Even if the cock does not crow, the sun will rise." A Ndebele proverb sent by Clayton Moyo, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

"Leading a race does not mean that you will win it." A Bemba proverb sent by Obert Musongo, Lusaka, Zambia.


"A person who sells eggs should not start a fight in the market." Sent by Francis Kabika, Senanga, Zambia.

Image copyright AFP

"Once water has been spilled, it cannot be scooped back up." A Swahili proverb sent by Ernest, Houston, US.

"If you want to improve your memory, lend someone money." Sent by John Mwila, Kitwe, Zambia.


"The eyes do not carry the load but they know what the head can carry." Sent by Abdoulie Senghore, Serekunda, The Gambia.

Image copyright Manuel Toledo

"The frowning of a goat does not prevent it from being priced in the market." Sent by Izuchukwu Emenjo, in Oji River, Nigeria and Andrew Daudu, in Aberdeen, UK.

"Two rams cannot drink from the same bucket at the same time." A Yoruba proverb sent by Akhigbe Godons, in Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria and Muyideen Adeogun, in London, UK.


"The lizard had the tree in mind before challenging the dog to a fight." Sent by Uchenna Osigwe, Quebec, Canada.

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"One cannot stop sleeping because of a fear of bad dreams." Sent by Kebede Deribe and Abdi Mo, both in Ethiopia.

"If a snake does not act like a snake, little children will use it to tie firewood." An Igbo proverb sent by Chukwuyere Anyandu, Minnesota, US.


"Take good care of your neck; neck ornaments are not difficult to find." A Bemba proverb sent by Martin Sumbulelo, Ndola, Zambia.

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"It is survival, not bravery that makes a man climb a thorny tree." Sent by Lukenge Ronald, Kampala, Uganda.

"The hands that make mistakes belong to those who work." A Sesotho proverb sent by Malefetsane Soai, Maseru, Lesotho.


"When you carry maize, fowl become your friends." An Ewe proverb sent by Fearnot Norvidzro and Stanley Sackey, both in Ghana.

Image copyright AFP

"If you are bitten by a snake you fear seeing a rope at night." Sent by Patricia Andala, Kenya.

"If you make friends with the boatman in the dry season, you will be the first to cross when the rains come and the tide is high." Sent by Patrick Terpaa, Monrovia, Liberia.


"When you see a rat running into a fire then you know that what it is running away from is hotter than the fire." Sent by Akuot Aquila, South Sudan.

Image copyright AFP

"Once the millet has sprouted, it is not afraid of the weather." An Acholi proverb sent by Phillip Kihumuro, Hoima, Uganda.

"If the one who stabbed forgets, the one who got stabbed never forgets." Sent by Sam Dan, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Nurie Ahmed, Toronto, Canada.


"In a caravan, it is the first camel who delays the rest; however the last one gets all the beatings." Sent by Abraham Kahsay, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.

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"No matter how good you are to a goat it will still eat your yam." Sent by Gabriel Ajibade and Ejike Basil, both in Lagos, Nigeria.

"Those with tattered skirts should avoid dancing too close to the fire." A Shona proverb sent by Pachawo Dhlamini, Mutare, Zimbabwe.

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