African Proverbs in African Literature

A Critical Resourcebase


MALI [Capital City: Bamako]

The history of Mali is interesting for many reasons, the most important of which is that the territory served as a major trade route in the pre-colonial days when the Arab Berber traders from North Africa visited the “Western Sudan” (further south) to trade with the indigenes in such items as gold, salt, slaves, etc.

It is on record that such important trade settlements as Gao, Timbuktu, and Kumbi Saleh were frequently the nerve-center of that Trans-Saharan trade. It was one of the French colonies in West Africa till 1960 when it gained independence.


1. Do not try to cook the goat’s young in the goat’s milk.

2. The humble pay for the mistakes of their betters.

3. You are beautiful because of your possessions.

4. A man with too much ambition cannot sleep in peace.

5. If God gave the swallow nothing else, he gave him swiftness in turning.

6. A village without a leader is destroyed by a single enemy.

7. A canoe does not know who the leader is; when it turns over, everyone gets wet.

8. A leader is a donkey for others to ride.

9. A rooster is not expected to crow for the whole world.

10. A strong man’s head is full of scars.


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


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