African Proverbs in African Literature

A Critical Resourcebase


NIGER [Capital City: Niamey]

This country is not among the rich ones in Africa but has its own potentials, being traversed by the River Niger, and known to have uranium deposits. Its proverbs are enlightening. It was a French colony in West Africa but gained independence in 1960.


1. A proverb is the horse of conversation; when the conversation lags, a proverb revives it.

2. A wise man who knows his proverbs can reconcile difficulties.

3. He who marries a beauty marries trouble.

4. Ashes fly back into the face of him who throws them.

5. He who does not mend his clothes will soon have none.

6. There is no medicine against old age.

7. He who boasts much can do little.

8. You cannot shave a man’s head in his absence.

9. The egg becomes a cockerel.

10. Familiarity breeds contempt; distance breeds respect.

11. The rat cannot call the cat to account.

12. If you play push with the porcupine, expect to get sore hands.

13. When there are no trees left, birds will perch on men’s heads.

14. If you beat a lion, it is your own head that aches.

15. When a fowl eats your neighbor’s corn, drive it away; another time, it will eat yours.

16. A stream coming down won’t let you swim up.

17. An orphaned calf licks its own back.

18. Only a medicine man gets rich by sleeping.

19. Before starting to sing, the young bird will listen to the song of the old.

20. A friendship through the stomach will never die.



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