Congolese Proverbs / Congo Proverbs

A collection of Congolese Proverbs to inspire you. Wise Congolese sayings in the form of proverbs that have been passed down for generations.

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), also known as DR Congo, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa. From 1971 to 1997 it was named Zaire. The DRC borders the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

BaKongo masks from the Kongo Central region

BaKongo masks from the Kongo Central region

“Botofé bo le iwa.” : Rubber is death (present day Congo proverb)

A bald-headed man will not grow hair by getting excited. – Congolese Proverb

A cat goes to a monastery, but she still remains a cat. – Congolese Proverb

A day of hunger is not starvation. – Congolese Proverb

A house with two keys is worth nothing. – Congolese Proverb

A lemon that grows in ripening, is not agreeable (i.e., does not taste well).- Congolese Proverb

A little subtleness is better than a lot of force. – Congolese Proverb

A paw-paw fruit that has not yet ripened on high (i.e., on the tree) is not yet sweet.- Congolese Proverb

A person who does not cultivate well his or her farm always says that it has been bewitched.- Congolese Proverb

A pretty basket does not prevent worries. – Congolese Proverb

A pretty face and fine clothes do not make character. – Congolese Proverb

A priest sees people at their best, a lawyer at their worst, but a doctor sees them as they really are. – Congolese Proverb

A real family eats the same cornmeal.- Congolese Proverb

A single bracelet does not jingle. – Congolese Proverb

A tree cannot stand without roots. – Congolese Proverb

Akashu is the father of other loaves.- Congolese Proverb

An idiot will cross an ox with an elephant. – Congolese Proverb

Congolese Proverbs

As the Elubo was once a soft unripe yam, (so) the slave was once a child in his father’s house.- Congolese Proverb

Before cooking, one must have provisions.- Congolese Proverb

Being well dressed does not prevent one from being poor. – Congolese Proverb

Children are the reward of life. – Congolese Proverb

Death does not sound a trumpet. – Congolese Proverb

Do not dispose of the monkey’s tail before he is dead. – Congolese Proverb

Don’t buy a boat that is under water.- Congolese Proverb

Don’t buy the salt if you haven’t licked it yet. – Congolese Proverb

Don’t cut off the monkey’s tail before it is dead. – Congolese Proverb

Dried cassava wants sun. – Congolese Proverb

Drink beer, think beer. – Congolese Proverb

Even without drumbeats, the banana leaves dance. – Congolese Proverb

Friendship does not need pepper to cry. – Congolese Proverb

Great events may stem from words of no importance. – Congolese Proverb

Had Odmoirifa aught to eat, he would not dig for crabs. – Congolese Proverb

He drinks palm wine like the Mfanifa (as we say, like a fish). – Congolese Proverb

He encumbers himself like the papaw (when laden with fruit). – Congolese Proverb

He is as persuasive as a seller of cakes. – Congolese Proverb

He who does not like chattering woman will remain a bachelor. – Congolese Proverb

He who is free of faults, will never die. – Congolese Proverb

Congolese Proverbs

I almost killed the bird! (said the sportsman). No one can eat ‘almost’ in a stew (i.e., almost never made a stew — was the reply.) – Congolese Proverb

I f the needle doesn’t pass, the thread doesn’t follow. – Congolese Proverb

I own a cow in heaven, but I cannot drink her milk. – Congolese Proverb

I went to the market and turned aside to eat Uyo (a cake of fruit like mango) ; Uyo of the market took me unwittingly with its sweetness. – Congolese Proverb

If ears could stir boiled meat, one would call the pig. – Congolese Proverb

If people would eat Koko raw, they would eat it so behind the bush (i.e., in the country, not in the town). – Congolese Proverb

If the eaters of enkokonte say they eat soap, you do not doubt it. – Congolese Proverb

If the needle doesn’t pass, the thread doesn’t follow. – Congolese Proverb

If thou pound palm nuts, some will stain thy cloth. – Congolese Proverb

If thou wish for palm-nuts, go to Tutu. – Congolese Proverb

If you are too modest, you will go hungry. – Congolese Proverb

If you attend to what is roasting, it will not be burnt. – Congolese Proverb

If you have no teeth, do not break the clay cooking pot. – Congolese Proverb

If you roast the yam too much, it will be burnt. – Congolese Proverb

If you tell people to live together, you tell them to quarrel. – Congolese Proverb

It is as hard as the eye of a (smoked) fish, which the teeth cannot break. – Congolese Proverb

It is easy to cut to pieces a dead elephant ; but no one dares attack a live one. – Congolese Proverb

Let him speak who has seen with his eyes. – Congolese Proverb

Let the guest come so that the host or hostess may benefit. – Congolese Proverb

Little by little grow the bananas. – Congolese Proverb

Love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly. – Congolese Proverb

Lovers do not hide their nakedness. – Congolese Proverb

Lower your head modestly while passing, and you will harvest bananas. – Congolese Proverb

Man is like palm-wine: when young, sweet but without strength; in old age, strong but harsh. – Congolese Proverb

Mothers-in-law are hard of hearing. – Congolese Proverb

Congolese Proverbs

Much millet is good, but it is better to find next year. – Congolese Proverb

No matter how full the river, it still wants to grow. – Congolese Proverb
[Interpretation: It is said to/about those who are being greedy: No matter how much they have, they still want to to grab more.]

No matter how full the river, it still wants to swell more. – Congolese Proverb

No matter how hard you throw a dead fish in the water, it still won’t swim. – Congolese Proverb

No matter how long the night may be, the day is sure to come. – Congolese Proverb

No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come. – Congolese Proverb

Nobody gathering mushrooms replaces them on the ant-hill. – Congolese Proverb

One (bad) nut spoils all. – Congolese Proverb

One [bad] palm tree spoils the palm wine. – Congolese Proverb

One day of hunger is not starvation. – Congolese Proverb

One knife will not cut another knife; one cheat will not cheat another cheat. – Congolese Proverb

One never carries elephant’s flesh on his head that he may dig in the ground with his foot for crickets. – Congolese Proverb

One person is thin porridge or gruel; two or three people are a lump (handful) of ugali. – Congolese Proverb

One plantain pulled off the bunch does not finish the plantain [tree] ; biting off a little of the Arata (plantain or koko prepared for preservation) does not finish the Arata. – Congolese Proverb

Pepper bites the throat ; the world loved me when I was a child. – Congolese Proverb

Plenty of Iru does not spoil the stew. – Congolese Proverb

Prepare now for the solutions of tomorrow. – Congolese Proverb

Prepare yourself for when the water comes up to your knees. – Congolese Proverb

Pride only goes the length one can spit. – Congolese Proverb

Sleep is the cousin of death. – Congolese Proverb

The absent are always in the wrong. – Congolese Proverb

The badness of the yam is (laid to) the badness of the knife : (but it is soon found out that the yam is in fault; so) he who injures another injures himself. – Congolese Proverb

The bee is the doctor of flowers. – Congolese Proverb

The brother or sister who does not respect the traditions of the elders will not be allowed to eat with the elders. – Congolese Proverb

The deliverance (or sentence delivered) hangs up the pepper. – Congolese Proverb

The Etigi or Okro (Hibiscus esculentus) hears the time of harvest and bears fruit, reproducing itself ; it hears the dry season and perishes. – Congolese Proverb

The eyes of the trapper are as subject to reddening as those of the small animal (that he pursues). – Congolese Proverb

Congolese Proverbs

The fish has been kept over one tide. – Congolese Proverb

The flesh of a young animal tastes flat. – Congolese Proverb

The fly has no pity for the thin man. – Congolese Proverb

The friends of our friends are our friends. – Congolese Proverb

The great wild boar is not easy to encounter. – Congolese Proverb

The Gudugudu (a poisonous wild yam) is very acid at the root. – Congolese Proverb

The Gudugudu (a poisonous wild yam) will not do to be made into flour. – Congolese Proverb

The hyena with a cub does not eat up all the available food. – Congolese Proverb

The impotent man does not eat spicy foods. – Congolese Proverb

The iron never takes advice from the hammer. – Congolese Proverb

The mother-in-law shows you her thighs without shame, you are the embarrassed one. – Congolese Proverb

The nuts from a palm tree don’t fall without dragging a few leaves with it. – Congolese Proverb

The okra tree does not grow taller than its master. – Congolese Proverb

The pestle and the mortar had no quarrel between them, it was the farmer that caused the quarrel (by supplying the yam for pounding) : the child of the mortar (i.e., the pestle) does not beat its mother for nothing. – Congolese Proverb

The planter of koko (Colocasia esculenta) wishes but a seedling. – Congolese Proverb

The portion that a man keeps for himself is usually not the smallest. – Congolese Proverb

The pounding of Iyan is not like the pounding of Elubo : Iyan becomes more adhesive, Elubo separates into powder. – Congolese Proverb

The rat enters the trap, the trap catches it ; if it did not go into the trap, the trap would not do so. – Congolese Proverb

The salt will not say of itself, “I have a pleasant taste.” – Congolese Proverb

The sheep may become king, but the sheep will always remember the lion. – Congolese Proverb

The snake and the crab don’t sleep in the same hole. – Congolese Proverb

The son shoots a leopard; the father is proud. – Congolese Proverb

The sparrow loves millet, but he labors not. – Congolese Proverb

The strength of a wooden mortar is not like the strength of an earthen pot. Place a mortar on the fire, and it will burn ; pound a yam in a pot, and it will break through (the bottom). – Congolese Proverb

The teeth are smiling, but is the heart? – Congolese Proverb

The watched chicken never lays. – Congolese Proverb

The white man never forgets Europe. – Congolese Proverb

The worm that gnaws on the bean is the one inside the bean. – Congolese Proverb

Those who are absent are always wrong. – Congolese Proverb

Those who inherit fortunes are frequently more of a problem than those who made them. – Congolese Proverb

Though the host may be living on wild beans, the guest expects a handful of boiled corn. – Congolese Proverb

To brag is not to plant bananas : in clearing the ground about them, it (the work) consists. – Congolese Proverb

To dip ugali in a little gravy is better than to be completely without gravy. – Congolese Proverb

To love someone who does not love you, is like shaking a tree to make the dew drops fall. – Congolese Proverb

Two birds disputed about a kernel, when a third swooped down and carried it off. – Congolese Proverb

War ends nothing. – Congolese Proverb

What is said over the dead lion’s body, could not be said to him alive. – Congolese Proverb

When a tall woman carries palm-nuts, the birds will eat them. – Congolese Proverb

When anybody prepares food for you, he testifies to you by Ampesi (i.e., he gives you some Ampesi to try it by). – Congolese Proverb

When elephants fight the grass (reeds) gets hurt. – Congolese Proverb

When famine is sharp, the cricket is fat ; when famine is relieved, the cricket is poor. – Congolese Proverb

When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee’s house some day. – Congolese Proverb
[Interpretation: – One good turn deserves another. It is similar to what the Christian Bible suggests: “Cast your bread upon the waters.”]

When the bread runs round, it dances it in the pot. – Congolese Proverb

When the farmer is tying up corn-sheaves he rejoices ; from bundles of corn come bundles of money. – Congolese Proverb

When the Imale (Yoruban proselyte to El Islam) is not hungry, he says, “I never eat monkey -flesh.” – Congolese Proverb

When the palm-nuts are ripe, you carry half, I carry half. – Congolese Proverb

When the Pitri absorbs (the soup), he does it for his master. – Congolese Proverb

When there is famine the cricket is fat (that is, is considered good enough to eat); when the famine is over the cricket is lean (i.e., is rejected). – Congolese Proverb

When you cut down a palm-tree with the slave of your father, he will call you friend. – Congolese Proverb

Where there is no shame, there is no honor. – Congolese Proverb

Who sits down is a cripple. – Congolese Proverb

With a piece of herring they catch the Tsile. – Congolese Proverb

Without war there can be no peace. – Congolese Proverb

Woe to the high spirited bride whose mother-in-law is still alive. – Congolese Proverb

Wood may remain ten years in the water, but it will never become a crocodile. – Congolese Proverb

You are beautiful; but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty. – Congolese Proverb

You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. – Congolese Proverb

You eat like an Ebe (a grub which burrows in the yam). – Congolese Proverb

You inherit from the dead, not from the sick. – Congolese Proverb

Congolese Proverbs

Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

A pretty face and fine clothes do not make character. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

A thief can detect the footmarks of another thief on a rock. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

Death does not sound a trumpet. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

He who doesn’t like chattering women must stay a bachelor. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

If the trial concerns the forest, don’t take a monkey as a judge. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

If you walk with an elephant, the dew will not bother you. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

Love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

Lovers do not hide their nakedness. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

Man is like palm-wine: when young, sweet but without strength; in old age, strong but harsh. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

One day of hunger is not starvation. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

You can’t blame the flea for foul-smelling when you crush it. – Congolese Brazzaville Proverbs

Congolese Proverbs

Tata ye mama bakinu zinga, zaya ntalu ya kwanga. (Kongo)
Fahamu bei ya kwanga wakati baba na mama wangali hai. (Swahili)
Sache le prix d’une chikwangue pendant que papa et maman sont encore vivants. (French)
Know the price of a Kwanga while dad and mom are still alive. (English)

Tetela: Diwala eko kalasa le wadi l’umi (Tetela)
Kiswahili: Ndoa ni shule (kiswahili)
French: Le mariage est une école (French)
English: Marriage is a school (English)

“Baleke ba bueke nsuki tumbu kua ba mbuta”:
(Soki bana ba teli suki e zali nde etumbu ya bakolo)

When children’s hair goes red it is the elders who are to blame. Children’s hair would not go red if elders took good care of the children – (Young child’s hair becoming red and soft is often seen as a sign of ill-health). In the Kongo ancient traditions it is said that it is only one person who brings a child into the world. However, the responsibility and duty to raise that child are on the shoulders of the elders around the child. Should that child stray, or suffer from ill-health, ultimately, the blame would be with the elders.
Whether children do well, or do poorly, they are a product of their upbringing.

“Dia zayakana ka di vanganga muntu mpasi ko”:
(Likambo e yebani/likambo e bimi libanda e salaka moto pasi te)

That which is known, that which is out in the open, does not cause pain, nor does it bring torment to anybody.  There will be time when the wise thing to do is to keep things hidden. But, would it be painless?
To resolve any difficulty it would be wise to bring it out in the open and spell it out so that you can get to its roots. Would it be painless?

“Disu diafwa divaikanga mansanga kiadi kia ntu”:
(Liso ya ko kufa e zali ko bimisa mayi ya miso mawa e wuti na moto)
Can be literally translated as “Dead/blind eye shedding tears sadness of head”.  There are times when someone who because of their bad behaviour should not deserve to be helped when they find themselves in difficulty. However, people may turn a blind eye to their bad behaviour and would help them because they remember their father and his kind-heartedness. Also, the proverb is about the sadness, or heartache that being the “head” (n’tu) of the family (clan) can cause. The head of the family carries the shame, and, the pain caused by the bad behaviour of the family (clan) member.

“Kia didi’eti n’dia mia nsekele ko; yandi nsekele wa dia miaku’e?”: (Nanu na liya misopo ya nziko te.  Kasi, bongo nziko a si a liya oyo ya yo misopo?)

I have never eaten a porcupine’s intestines; [but] has a porcupine ever eaten yours? Often, in our villages, there are people who moan about others not being generous. They accuse others of being mean, or misers. Yet, they themselves have never ever given anything to those they moan about. If you want people to give to you, you have to learn to give. For, others will only do to you what you do to them. If you do not give, why should you expect others to give you anything?

“E lukamba ko, muna mwa yenda akulu”:

(Molango/Mwango ba matelaka nzete ya mbila e landaka epayi ba kolo ba matelaki)
“Lukamba”, a rope made of palm tree twines used to climb palm trees with, follows the footholds the ancestors had made on the palm tree trunk. Not everything that our ancestors did was good. But, we would be doomed if we neglected and discarded the good things they had and did. To all human societies has been revealed the secrets of life and the workings of the natural laws. Were not ours revealed to our ancestors: “Bakulu”? It is not wise to idolise our ancestors and romanticise the past. Nor is it wise to despise their ways. Were not their ways based on the insights rising from their intuition: The Inner Light?

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