African Proverbs in African Literature

A Critical Resourcebase

Interpretation, 3


We now turn to Central Africa to interpret some of the poems from the countries there.

A. Proverbs from Uganda

1. “He who hunts two rats catches none”:
If you don’t learn to do one thing at a time, you will end up achieving nothing useful. In other words, you must not allow greed to control your life.

2. “The hunter in pursuit of an elephant does not stop to throw stones at birds”:
If you have something precious to achieve, you don’t have to waste your time on triviliaties.

B. Proverbs from Malawi

1. “Do not be like the mosquito that bites the owner of the house”: 
You don’t have to be ungrateful to your benefactor. It is just like your biting the finger that feeds you. How can you survive?

C. Proverbs from the Democratic Republic of Congo

1. “No matter how full the river, it still wants to grow”:
It is said to those who are greedy. No matter how much they have, they will still want to grab more.

2. “When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee’s house some day”:
One good turn deserves another. It is just like what the Christian Bible admonishes: Cast your bread upon the waters.

D. Proverbs from Burundi/Rwanda

1. “In a court of fowls, the cockroach never wins his case”:
The weaklings do not ever get justice because of their nature. This proverb addresses the social injustice that makes it difficult for people who don’t have “connections” within political circles to enjoy their rights and privileges.

2. “If you are building a house and a nail breaks, do you stop building, or do you change the nail?”:
You don’t have to allow one misfortune to prevent you from going ahead to achieve your goals in life because the downfall of a man is not the end of his life; nor should the loss of one animal mean the death of all other animals in the forest. You still can go ahead to make progress after an initial hitch.




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