A proverb is a short, well-known saying which shares a piece of advice or a general truth about the world. We hear proverbs all the time in our daily lives, though we do not always notice them.
For example, the expression “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is technically a proverb, as is the saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
Throughout history, proverbs have been important to many cultures of the world because they can quickly describe a country’s worldview (way of looking at things.)
This is because proverbs shape a nation, or culture’s, sense of right and wrong. Most proverbs are like stories we learn in our childhoods, and they affect what we view as “good” and “bad.”
Because they are so widespread, they can offer a useful insight into how a culture is likely to think or feel about certain things, or what their opinions might be on events like birth, death, and marriage.
Often, proverbs use real facts and imaginary details in conjunction with one another.
In African culture, proverbs are particularly important. Because Africa is a continent with a mainly oral (spoken) record of history, proverbs are one of the few ways to share wisdom that can spread to all parts of the continent.
They are not limited by the same cultural factors other stories and legends might be. There are sayings for all occasions, and for all purposes.
This is what makes proverbs so universal: there are proverbs for birth, death, weddings, religious rites, rites of passage, etc.
Many African proverbs are so universal, they have even made it to Europe and America, and have been accepted as part of the regular vocabulary of the people.
The Yorubas of the African country Nigeria actually discuss the importance of proverbs with a proverb of their own: “A proverb is the horse that can carry one swiftly to the discovery of ideas.”
Some of the most profound proverbs you will ever hear have their origins in the continent of Africa; for example, the famous saying, “many hands make light work,” comes from Tanzania.
This expression teaches us that teamwork can make any job easier, and encourages us to work together with those who are willing to.
Some famous African proverbs include:
The wisdom of these proverbs helps to dismantle the idea that African people are barbaric and uneducated, an unfortunately common viewpoint held in the modern world.
They show us that not all wisdom comes from a classroom: when these proverbs are translated, it’s easy to see the intelligence they possess.
In this way, proverbs can help people to understand that one society is not superior to any other.
All wisdom is precious and valuable, no matter where it comes from, and can be found in even the most unlikely of places.
– A proverb is a short, well-known saying which shares a general truth of the world. An example of a proverb is “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
– Proverbs are like stories intended to tell a certain moral message; because we hear them so often, and especially as children, they shape what we view as right and wrong.
– Because the record of African history is spoken, not written, proverbs are one of the few records of shared wisdom available between tribes.
– Many hands make light work.