Usefulness of Proverb new
Proverbs provide wonderful nuggets of discussion-provoking
wisdom. Proverbs, while arising out of and illuminating distinct
cultures, also speak to widely shared, perhaps planet-spanning, truths.
According to the Ghanaian reer Kofi Asare Opoku, "The Yoruba
of Nigeria emphasize the value of proverbs with a proverb, saying, 'A
proverb is the horse that can carry one swiftly to the discovery of
ideas.'" (quotation from https://www2.wcoil.com/~mdecker/af-prov.htm).
Like a good storyteller, proverbs can paint vivid pictures of precepts
which accelerate understanding. Good proverbs are more complex than they
seem at first blush -- they can almost always be fruitfully examined,
discussed, and even reversed.
Proverbs can be used for many pedagogical purposes. They
can provide focus to gatherings and closings, either used singly to
emphasize one idea, or with each individual or group getting a different
one and asking for a few people to share ones that are meaningful to
them (thanks to Linda Lantieri for this approach). If you have more
time, each pair or group could lead a discussion about the meaning of
their saying. Proverbs can be used in character colloquies (intellectual
discussions) as part of character education programs. Comparing proverbs
from different cultures can emphasize both our unity and multicultural
diversity. Additionally, they are useful as springboards for discussions
of the implications and ethical dimensions of literature, historical
events, scientific and technological controversies, our own beliefs, our
learning styles, and our own behavior.
The citations on the web sites used to compile this list
usually cited either the ethnic group in which the proverb arose or the
country of origin, but few mentioned both an ethnic origin and a country
name. Where possible, the proverb's description as included here
includes the contemporary country or countries in which that linguistic
or ethnic group primarily lives, and in some cases a regional
description. Some sites listed both the English translation and the
transliteration of the original, and so where possible that is included
too. They are reproduced here spaced widely apart to make it easier to
print this page out and cut it into slips to hand out.
The hen with baby chicks doesn't swallow the worm.
kibuge kut ingony kou ingok (Nandi, Rwanda). “Do not wipe your mouth on the ground like a hen”. This
proverb tells you, ‘never be ungrateful even for a small deed done
to you by a friend’. It is used to chastise those who receive help
and end up complaining after they have been given assistance however
small it may be. It therefore teaches appreciation.
Where there is peace, a billhook (sickle) can be used to
shave your beard or cut your hair.
Walk on a fresh tree, the dry one will break.
When a tree falls on a yam farm and kills the farm's owner,
you don't waste time counting the numbers of yam hips ruined
Like vomit and shit under your feet (the rumormonger spreads
The tears of the orphan run inside.
Mafa (Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger)
Use of brains begets wealth.
Cows are born with ears; later they grow horns.
An eye that you treat is the one that turns against you.
(English) Luo (Kenya,
A chicken eats corn, drinks water and swallows little
pebbles, but still complains of having no teeth. If she had teeth
would she eat steel? (Literal English) Yoruba and Idanre (Nigeria)
From the word of an elder is derived a bone. Rwanda (Rwanda) and
Words are like bullets; if they escape, you can't catch them
again. Wolof (Senegal, The Gambia)
You cannot use a wild banana leaf to shield yourself from the
rains and then tear it to pieces later when the rains come to an
end. Nandi (Kenya)
Young growing cuttings determine a good harvest of
cassava. Tonga (Malawi)
Smoke does not affect honeybees alone; honey-gatherers are
also affected. Bassa (Liberia)
The person who has a light knee can survive longer.
What is in the stomach carries what is in the head.
Slowly, slowly, porridge goes into the gourd. Kuria (Kenya, Tanzania)
A fool has many days. Tharaka,
also in Gikuyu (Kenya)
A Tutsi liked to warm himself by the fire; someone else took
the bull. Zinza (Tanzania)
Far is where there is nothing, where something is that you
will struggle to the death to reach. Shona (Zimbabwe)
A child (young person) does not fear treading on dangerous
ground until he or she gets hurt (stumbles).Bukusu (Kenya)
When elephants fight the grass (reeds) gets hurt.
(Eastern and Central Africa)
of the Proverb:
|The hen with baby chicks doesn't swallow the worm
inspiring Sukuma proverb in Tanzania on sacrifice and self-denial is The
hen with baby chicks doesn't swallow the worm. Its main theme is
"Parental Care." The mother hen is constantly looking for food
to feed her chicks. When she does find some food, for example a worm,
she doesn't eat it but leaves it for her chicks. Only after the chicks
have eaten and been satisfied will the mother hen take something for
herself. In contrast to the hen, the mother duck doesn't provide for her
ducklings. She let's them fend for themselves. See the Sukuma proverb Uli
ng'wana wa mbata ibegejage (You are the child of a duck; take care of
Similar African proverbs are When a
woman is hungry she says: "Roast something for the children that
they may eat" (Akan, Ghana). No matter how skinny, the son
always belongs to his father (Galla, Ethiopia). The cows never
run away from her calves (Bemba, Zambia). The porcupine lovingly
licks her spinney (thorny) offspring (Oromo, Ethiopia). The child
who stays near his or her mother does not fall into the trap (Chewa,
Malawi/Zambia). The mother hen does not break its own eggs
(Swahili, Eastern Africa). The umbilical cord and strap in which the
cord is wrapped is like mother and child (Ganda, Uganda).
Parents can learn much from this
proverb. It is their obligation to care for their children by providing
what is necessary for their health, education and right conduct -- food,
clothing and other needs. To fulfill their obligations to their
children, it is necessary for parents to be self-sacrificing and forego
certain things in their lifestyle, for example, excessive beer drinking,
wearing expensive clothes, etc.
An important aspect of African proverbs
is their participatory nature that fits in very well with relationship
and community values. Sometimes a preacher or teacher gives the first
half of the proverb and the congregation or audience responds with the
second half: Unity is strength...division is weakness. The hen with
baby chicks...doesn't swallow the worm. The second half is the
advice that the speaker wants the audience to accept so he or she
"maneuvers" the listeners so that the words come from their
own lips. End
Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing
During the colonial period in Kenya there were three Kikuyu
men Kioi, Githogori and Kaminju who thought that they knew everything.
They decided to go to adult education classes to learn English. When
they went to the school they carried with them books and pencils and put
them on a table. When the tutor came he asked them, "Who put these
items here?" They said in the Kikuyu language ni
ithuii atatu. The tutor told them that to say this in English they
should say we three. They
learned these words and went home. The following day the tutor found
they had sharpened their pencils very badly "like sugarcanes"
and asked them, "What did you use to sharpen the pencils?"
They said in Kikuyu na banga. He told them that to say this in English they should say with
a panga or knife. They went home and came back the following day.
But the tutor told them that he would not teach them until they come
back with school fees, that the classes were not free. He sent them away
and told them if they were asked why they were sent away they should say
it was because of money.
As they walked home they feared that they might forget what they had
learned so they decided to assign the three phrases they had learned so
far -- we three, with a panga or
knife and because of money
-- to the three of them respectively, that is, to Kioi, Githogori and
Kaminju. As they were going home they came upon the body of a man who
had just been killed so they started looking around the scene. As they
were looking around a colonial policeman arrived in a car, saw the dead
man and asked, "Who killed him?" Kioi replied, "We
three." The policeman asked, "With what?" Githogori
replied, "With a panga or knife." The policeman asked further,
"Why?" Kaminju replied, "Because of money." Now the
three Kikuyu men thought that they knew English quite well and were
eager and happy to speak with a white man. But they were immediately
handcuffed and landed in jail. So the English proverb, A
little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Story, Dr. Gerald Wanjohi, adapted from a Kikuyu Ethnic Group story on a
satiric radio program, Nairobi, Kenya