African Proverbs in African Literature

A Critical Resourcebase

Kenya

KENYA [Capital City: Nairobi]

The Mau Mau nationalist forces, led by Jomo Kenyatta, succeeded in overthrowing British control over Kenya in 1964. Kenya has produced post-colinial Africa‘s worst general elections-related violence in Africa after the March 2009 polls in which more than a thousand people lost their lives as a result of mayhem.

PROVERBS FROM KENYA

1. After a foolish deed comes remorse.

2. A man who has once been tossed by a buffalo, when he sees a black ox, thinks it’s another buffalo.

3. He who receives a gift does not measure.

4. He who does not know one thing knows another.

5. Do not say the first thing that comes to your mind.

6. A white dog does not bite another white dog.

7. Try this bracelet: if it fits you, wear it; but if it hurts you, throw it away no matter how shiny it may be.

8. When you take a knife away from a child, give him a piece of wood instead.

9. He who is unable to dance says that the yard is stony.
[Interpretation: Those who boast of their abilities but cannot do anything to prove their mettle will always shift the blame to others.]

10. One finger alone cannot kill even a louse.

11. Because a man has injured your goat, do not go out and kill his bull.

12. A man who continually laments is not heeded.

13. Talking with one another is loving one another.

14. Absence makes the heart forget.

15. If a dead tree falls, it carries with it a live one.

16. Virtue is better than wealth.

17. There is no phrase without a double meaning.

18. Hearts do not meet one another like roads.

19. One does not slaughter a calf before its mother’s eyes.

20. There is no cure that does not cost.

21. Seeing is different from being told.

22. It is the duty of children to wait on elders, and not the elders on children.

23. Thunder is not yet rain.

24. Soon found soon lost.

25. Home affairs are not talked about on the public square.

26. Good millet is known at harvest.

27. Use of brains begets wealth.

28. The man may be the head of the home but his wife is the heart of the home.

29. It is the toothless animal that arrives first at the base of the fruit tree to eat his fill before others arrive.
[Interpretation: If you know that you don’t have what it will take you to achieve what others do, try to use the little you have to bring in sustenance. Don’t fritter away your chance because it will cost you dearly in the end.]

30. A fool has many days.

31. A child (young person) does not fear treading on dangerous ground until he or she gets hurt (stumbles).

32. A hyaena cannot smell its own stench.

33. Only a medicine man gets rich by sleeping.

34. Two waterfalls do not hear each other.

35. We should put out fire while it is still small.

36. The eye is a coward.

37. You cannot take away someone’s luck.

38. You cannot kill game by looking at it.

39. A big goat does not sneeze without reason.

40. A sweet taste does not remain forever in the mouth.

41. Axes carried in the same bag cannot avoid rattling.

42. He who eats alone, dies alone.

43. If the calf sucks too greedily, it tears away the mother’s udder.

44. One fly causes the whole carcass of a cow to rot.

45. There is no pond which the sun cannot dry up.

46. To eat much leaves you with a swollen belly.

47. The occasion makes the thief: Don’t tempt warriors with cows; they will snatch them from you.

IMPORTANT LINKS ON KENYA

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

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/coolplanet/kidsweb/world/kenya/index.htm

http://www.kenyaembassy.com/

http://www.kenyaweb.com/

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/NEH/ke.html

http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/specials/goplaces/0,12405,182117,00.html

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