I remember learning proverbs from lists at school, both primary school and early high school. These were all very Eurocentric and drawn almost exclusively from English sources. Times change, of course, and so do our interests. Today we, as a society, are far more open to seeing local things as valuable, and so it is that this charming compilation of African proverbs by Dianne Stewart comes into being.
The proverb that one should never judge a book by its cover is English, but finds literal meaning for this book. It seems dull from the cover, but it is not. The proverbs in it have been grouped into Wisdom, Human nature, Family Life, Adversity, Good fortune, Community, Time, Communication, Animals, Birds, Insects, Food and drink, Nature and General with one or two proverbs per page over 150 pages.
Each proverb is listed in its original language, with tribe and country of origin. Then there is an English translation and an explanation. So, on page 77 under “Time” one finds “Ukugug’ akumemezi.” (Zulu: South Africa) Old age arrives unannouced. Explanation: Nothing marks the transition from middle to old age. It arrives suddenly. Ok. I picked that one because it suddenly seemed relevant to my life (I’m hoping it is just a bad day that makes it seem like that – I can’t possibly be more than middle-aged).
This is one of those books which does not have to be read at one sitting, and it makes an excellent book to dip into for a brief moment (like when one is waiting at the other end of a telephone line listening to canned music and trying to be patient). As such it is a perfect Christmas gift for a busy executive, the family patriarch, or a unisex gift for someone one does not necessarily know well. It also makes a charming gift for someone not from Africa.
I conclude with this charming piece of wisdom from page 147 under General. Unapoanika unakausha. (Kuria: Tanzania) It dries when it is put in the sun. Explanation: When one’s problems are hidden, no-one else is aware of them. When they are revealed, people are in a better position to help.
- Title: Wisdom from Africa
- Sub-title: A collection of proverbs
- Compiler: Dianne Stewart
- Publisher: Penguin RandomHouse Struik
- Year: 2005
- Recommended Selling Price: R170
- ISBN: 9781770070264