African Proverbs in African Literature

A Critical Resourcebase


MOZAMBIQUE [Capital City: Maputo]

A former colony of Portugal, this country endured several years of civil war at independence.


1. A man does not run among thorns for no reason; either he is chasing a snake or a snake is chasing him.

2. A parasite cannot live alone.

3. A reflection does not see itself.

4. The crab does not bite; it is its handshake that hurts.

5. If you want to swallow a mango seed, you first of all calculate the diameter of your anus.

6. If the chicken attacks you in the morning, RUN first because it might have grown teeth overnight.

7. The grasshopper that was eaten by the hornbill must have been deaf.

8. A sinking vessel needs no navigation.

9. The vulture says that it has no business with the barbers.

10. When the lion is crippled, the hare goes to his house for debt recovery.

11. A river that cannot be controlled is bound to burst its banks.

12. Do not try to fight a lion if you are not one yourself.

13. When two elephants meet on a narrow bridge, they get nowhere until one of them backs down or lies down.

14. Hunger makes the big fish come out of hiding in the great river.

15. A fool has many days.

16. One who enters a forest does not listen to the breaking of the twigs in the brush.

17. By persevering the egg walks on legs.

18. An elephant which kills a rat is not a hero.

19. If the owner of the calabash calls it worthless, then the others will join him to pack it with rubbish.

20. The sound of a drum is not determined by its size nor the skills of a drummer but by his strength.

21. There are no shortcuts to the top of the palm tree.

22. The bee is the doctor of flowers.

23. There is no cockerel without a comb.

24. A wise man cannot save a decaying country as manure cannot save an eroding land.

25. An elephant with a bad leg limps along.

26. Madness does not govern a country; discussion does.

27. One does not cut the tusks of an elephant.

28. An elephant fears attack from several sides.

29. When you live next to the cemetery, you cannot weep for everyone.

30. Whether the knife falls on the melon or the melon on the knife, the melon suffers.

31. The news has gone round and round, yet the person it concerns is deaf.

32. If while climbing a tree you insist on going beyond the top, the earth will be waiting for you.

33. If you fail to be a lizard in your own land, you will fail to be a crocodile in another land.

34. If you want to carry the world, do not tie it with a rope, otherwise the rope will break and the world will crush you.

35. When the lion goes astray, all the other animals are king of the jungle.

36. An ant-hill that is destined to become a giant ant-hill will ultimately become one, no matter how many times it is destroyed by elephants.

37. If you are not able to build a house at once, you must first build a shed.

38. A bird does not change its feathers because the weather is bad.

39. If a pregnant woman falls, the child in the womb answers.

40. Fire devours the grass, but not the roots.

41. If the mat is not in a man’s hand, he sleeps standing.

42. There is no elephant that complains about the weight of its trunk.

43. The owl is the wisest of all birds because the more it sees, the less it talks.

44. By being grateful, a man makes himself deserving of yet another kindness.

45. If men are cruel to the cat, the domestic cat becomes a wild animal.

46. The leech that does not let go even when it is filled dies on the dry land.


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



Image by F H Mira via Flickr


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