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African Proverbs on Love

What is love? Love is almost impossible to explain, but since time began some of life’s most important decisions have been made because of and for love. In Africa, the advice passed from mother to daughter and father to son, has been the most valuable source of support, comfort and re-assurance in any family or community.

Love can happen to anyone at any time. It is often completely unexpected and when someone grabs your heart (in other cultures the organ of love may not be the heart), it can turn your life upside down:

“You have captured my liver” (the liver is considered to be the organ of love among the Berber)
“Love, like rain, does not choose the grass on which it falls” (Zulu)

Apart from the inexplicable feelings of elation, there are physical changes in the body that love brings about:

“A letter from the heart can be read on the face” (Swahili)

The world around you seems to change:

“When in love, a cliff becomes a meadow” (Ethiopia)

And when you fall in love nothing seems too much trouble and difficulties become almost trivial:

“The best part of happiness lies in the secret heart of a lover” (African)

The people around you (and the person you love) seem to become more beautiful, no matter what they look like or how they dress:

“The one who loves an unsightly person is the one who makes them beautiful” (Uganda)
“He who loves, loves you with your dirt” (Uganda)

What about the beautiful person? Some say beauty is a curse when trying to find love, while others say beauty is a blessing, but we can’t be blinded by good looks:

“He who loves the vase loves also what is inside” (African)

For those not blessed with beauty:

“If you are ugly you must either learn to dance or make love” (African)

When we fall in love, we want to be protected; we want to feel someone is making us their priority:

“A woman is a flower in a garden; her husband is the fence around it” (Ghana)

And as a garden needs to be nurtured and appreciated, so does love. It can be hard work to make love a success:

“Love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly” (Congo DRC)

Although love feels like a big deal (it really is!), it is not always the big events or the important things said and done that make a man love a woman:

“So many little things make a man love a woman in a big way” (Ghana)

Then there comes a point in this journey of love when we decide to move into the next exciting chapter and we consider marriage.

“If a young woman says no to marriage just wait until her breasts sag” (Burundi)

Love of course needs to be at the centre of this decision to marry:

“If you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains as is” (Egypt)

Married life has its ups and downs:

“The buttocks are like a married couple though there is constant friction between them; they will still love and live together” (African)

But a word of advice to all who fall in love:

“Don't be so much in love that you can't tell when it's raining” (Madagascar)

We have all been struck down by lovesickness at some time, and as the Irish say,

“The only cure for love is marriage”

Here’s to enjoying the exciting journey of love… and remember:

"Coffee and love taste best when hot!” (Ethiopia)

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