African Proverbs in African Literature

A Critical Resourcebase

Democratic Republic of Congo


This country was a colony of Belgium until 1960. The Congo Crisis of the early 1960s and the murder of the socialist-oriented Patrice Lumumba began this country’s woes. Matters were worsened by the decades-long rule of Mobutu Sese Seko that saw a change in the country’s name from Congo Kinshasa to Zaire.

The maladministration of Mobutu eventually plunged the country into a civil war that led to his overthrow and the emergence of Laurent Kabila who changed the country’s name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila was later assassinated and his place taken by his son, Joseph Kabila.


1. Lower your head modestly while passing, and you will harvest bananas.

2. What is said over the dead lion’s body cannot be said to him alive.

3. Children are the reward of life.

4. Being well dressed does not prevent one from being poor.

5. Little by little grow the bananas.

6. A pretty basket does not prevent worries.

7. No matter how full the river, it still wants to grow.
[Interpretation: It is said to/about those who are being greedy: No matter how much they have, they still want to to grab more.]

8. Do not dispose of the monkey’s tail before he is dead.

9. Love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly.

10. The teeth are smiling, but is the heart?

11. Great events may stem from words of no importance.

12.You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla.

13. A little subtleness is better than a lot of force.

14. Two birds disputed about a kernel; when a third swooped down and carried it off.

15. The son shoots a leopard; the father is proud.

16. Man is like palm-wine: when young, sweet but without strength; in old age, strong but harsh.

17. Mothers-in-law are hard of hearing.

18. If you tell people to live together, you tell them to quarrel.

19. The friends of our friends are our friends.

20. Wood may remain ten years in the water but it will never become a crocodile.

21. Death does not sound a trumpet.

22. Let him speak who has seen with his eyes.

23. When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee’s house some day.

[Interpretation: – One good turn deserves another. It is similar to what the Christian Bible suggests: “Cast your bread upon the waters.”]

24. No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.

25. A single bracelet does not jingle.

26. He who is free of faults will never die.

27. To love someone who does not love you is like shaking a tree to make the dew drops fall.

28. Sleep is the cousin of death.

29. The flesh of a young animal tastes flat.

30. Those who are absent are always wrong.

31. Even without drumbeats, the banana leaves dance.

32. You are beautiful; but learn to work for, you cannot eat your beauty.


The following links will take you to sources that have some important information on Africa:


United Nations Organization Mission in Democra...

Image by United Nations Photo via Flickr


2 thoughts on “Democratic Republic of Congo

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