These proverbs are from the book African Proverbs.  Its contents were compiled by Charlotte and Wolf Leslau and decorations were drawn by Jeff Hill.  The book was published by Peter Pauper Press, New York in 1962.

There are many different tribes and countries on the continent of Africa.  I can only include a few of the many wise sayings.

Ashanti or Ghana

  • Rain beats a leopard’s skin, but it does not wash out the spots.
  • When the cock is drunk, he forgets about the hawk.

Buganda or Uganda

  • When the moon is not full, the stars shine more brightly.


  • A fool looks for dung where the cow never browsed.
  • I have a cow in the sky, but cannot drink her milk.


  • Indecision is like the stepchild: if he doesn’t wash his hands, he is called dirty; if he does, he is wasting the water.


  • Not all the flowers of a tree produce fruit.


  • If two horses are fighting, the grass underneath their hoofs will suffer.
  • There is no medicine against old age.


  • He who is being carried does not realize how far the town is.
  •  Little is better than nothing.

Rhodesia or South Africa

  • The monkey does not see his own hind parts; he sees his neighbors’.

Ruanda-Urundi or Rwanda and Burundi

  • In a court of fowls, the cockroach never wins his case.
  • If you speak, speak to him who understands you.

Sierra Leone

  • Do not tell the man who is carrying you that he stinks.

ZuluLand or South Africa

  • One does not cross a river without getting wet.