10 Enriching African Proverbs That Will Change The Way You See Life

10 Enriching African Proverbs That Will Change The Way You See Life

Africa- a continent consisting of abundantly rich and vibrant cultures- is filled with narratives that date back to the times of creative rock painting. These narratives, a common thread that unites the diverse societies in Africa, have given rise to the creation of African proverbs. Also referred to as " daughters of experience," these African proverbs usually consist of deep and insightful life lessons. 

The purpose of Cyan is to empower the African goddess to bold and unapologetically embrace who they are and where they come from (read more about that here  ) and what better way than to add actual value to your life by enriching you with culturally-rich African proverbs-wisdom from the continent you were born in. 

1. "Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet"

Just as putting both feet into a deep river might not only get you wet, but possibly result in you drowning if you cannot swim, you should approach every situation with caution as you would when testing the depth of a river. Do not blindly dive into a situation, instead take a step back and consider the consequences first. 

2. " If you pick up one end of the stick you also pick up the other"

A bold reminder that life is indeed a double-edged sword could not be better put than in the words of this Ethiopian proverb. When a fencer picks up a sword to practice her craft, she has to be creative enough not to hurt herself or the people around her yet confident enough to properly hold her weapon and strike her opponent. Every action we take- whether deliberate or not- has a consequence attached to it. Just as a fencer , we have to approach life in the same manner: confident in our actions, yet cautious too. 

3. "Teeth do not see poverty"

When the situation or circumstances in life are not quite pleasing, people somehow still find something to smile or laugh about. 

4. "Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped"

' What caused me to make that mistake?' should be the question you ask yourself in order to prevent yourself from making that mistake again.


5. "The best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him up into little pieces"

Let's address the white elephant in the room shall we? 

We all have an eexhausting difficult problem that needs solving, yet often feel exhausted by just thinking about the obstacle because it is seems just THAT big. The best way to solve any obstacle is figuratively stated in this proverb: take the problem apart, and solve it piece by piece, bit by bit. 

6. "No matter how long a log stays in water, it doesn't just become a crocodile."

(Bambara Proverb) Despite all the suffocating pressure we constantly receive from  the media and society on those size 28/30 jeans we should be able to fit in, the voluptuous hourglass figure we should have, the way in which we should articulate our words or the type of music and fashion trends we should be into, we will always be miserable unless we are true to ourselves.  Irrespective of how hard we may try to please society by faking our personality, we will always be who we are beneath it all. 

7. " A single bracelet does not jingle"

Which scenario produces the most noise: the sound a single bangle makes when you frantically shake your arm or the numerous clinking sound that multiple bangles make when you swiftly move your arm? 

Just as there is a louder sound made when there are multiple bangles on one arm, so too is there much strength amongst a group of people. This proverb emphasizes that there is indeed strength in numbers. 

8. "You must attend to the business with the vendor in the market, and no to the noise of the market."

The word 'market' in the proverb allows our mind to creatively imagine a quintessential African market place filled with traders, traditional African dancers, hawkers, sly pickpocketers, and mothers with their children by their hip bustling around from stand to stand while the sweet aroma of baked breads fills the morning air. 

This Beninese proverb uses the illustration of an African market to portray how important it is to ignore the distractions around us in order to accomplish our goals. 

9. "Do not set sail using someone else's star."

Avoid following in the footsteps of a well-known individual merely because they may have an admirable net worth or have over 100K Instagram followers. Simply because that specific individual is thriving in their industry doing something that they love and enjoy does not mean (nor guarantee) you will be successful in that industry too. 

Remember, no matter how long a log stays in water, it will not become a crocodile so chase after what you love hun!

10. "Smooth seas do not make skilled sailors"

Unfortunately just as they say " you cannot have a rainbow without a little rain," so too is it hard for you to grow and become the woman you want to beocme without experiencing some sort of hardship. 

The unforgettable lessons that we learn from these hardships should be applied to our daily lives. If you never experience some sort of opposition or obstacle in life, how can you even begin to understand which solution works for you and which doesn't? 

Final Word 

To this very day Africa continues to abundantly overflow with eye-opening proverbs that have been cherished and passed from generation to generation. Some traditional sayings come across as comical, others witty and cryptical, yet each contain rich grains of wisdom that can still be applied to our daily, 21st century lives. These proverbs not only provide us with wisdom and advice but also enrich us with fascinating knowledge about the tribes that created them and the jaw-dropping nature of Africa that inspired them. 

What better way to end off an African proverb blogpost with an actual African proverb? 

"The wise create proverbs for fools to learn not to repeat."

Do you understand what it means? Let us know in the comments section below.