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Maasai Proverbs

Guest Author - Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu

The Maasai tribe lives in southern Kenya and in Tanzania. They continue to live in their traditional way of life refusing to adapt to modern ways of life. Their lives center around their cattle where their main food are milk, cheese, meat, and blood. Here is some of their centuries old wisdom in the form of proverbs.


Events follow one another like days.

The children are the bright moon.

You know what to say, but you do not know what you might be told.

Do not allow the belly to make you useless.

Even the ostrich, with its long neck and sharp eyes, cannot see what will happen in the future.

The buttocks and the ground do not remain long apart.

One finger does not kill a louse.

He separates himself from his friends like a sick (or dead) donkey.

The hyena said, "It is not only that I have luck, but my leg is strong."

May you be as big as the white mountain.

If a stranger comes to stay with you, do not forget when you lay aside his weapons that he is hungry.

A particle of goat dung cannot be eaten by a large gourd.

A lie cannot fill the palm.

The daily path never ends.

Man is always beaten by his own tricks.

Behold the people you are passing.

The man is there, and the male, the woman and the female.

A new idea follows an old one.

Do not sweep someone else's home while yours is dirty.

Lonely is one.

There is not such a thing in the world as a sheep of many colors.

Life has seasons.

Hide the mouthfuls of food.

Why do you behave like a woman whose son has just married?

A blind sheep might chance across rain water.

The firewood which has been cut ready for burning laughs at that which is being consumed.

Don't fight a lion with a stick.

Coal laughs at ashes, not knowing that the same fate which has befallen them will befall it.

Be as familiar with observation as you are with the place you live.

It is better to be poor and live long than rich and die young.

You cannot advise a man who is after a woman.

A cow is as good as a man.

Baboons do not go far from the place of their birth.

The words of the elders are blessed.

One head cannot contain all knowledge.

The boaster will not cross the valley.

It is the belly which daily gives thanks.

Do not talk a great deal.

Nobody can say he is settled anywhere forever: it is only the mountains which do not move from their places.

Facing backwards does not perform itself.

Happiness is as good as food.

The bark of one tree will not adhere to another tree.

Do not show the hawk your bow, or he will fly away.

When an event occurs, only a part of the truth is sent abroad, the rest is kept back.

The village which is not discussed is not built.

Life and death are not alike.

We begin by being foolish and we become wise by experience.

Do not repair another man's fence until you have seen to your own.

The nose does not precede the rest of the body.

You will not be beaten when you think before acting.

The cow has no owner.

A lion can run faster than we can, but we can run farther.

The elephant can trip over a creeping plant.

It is the same thing when a man is once there whether he has been called or whether he has come of his own free will.

The withered tree will destroy the healthy tree when it falls down.

There is a dog in the gourd, and his ears prevent it from being closed.

A person does not itch from a thorn that is not his.

Mountains do not meet.

The eye cannot penetrate darkness.

Don't reply one wrong with another.

Bravery is not everything, and however brave a man may be, two brave men are better.

Actions come by the use of the legs, and if arrows come, there are legs behind them.

The slayer of the enemy has become a coward, and the poltroon has become a brave man.

Cheating and doing something by force are not the same.

The fart of the mouth and that of the bottom are not the same.

The mouth which ate fat shall eat excrement, and that which ate excrement shall eat fat.

The elephant does not get tired of his tusks.

Teeth do not see poverty.

The neck cannot become the head.

It is impossible to find a man who has everything, but it is possible to find one who enjoys the things he has.

A bargain cannot be held in the palm of the hand.

It cannot be cleansed with a brown he-goat.

Home is not far away when you are alive.

Zebra of course have no huts.

Being defeated and dying are the same.

It is the eye which has traveled that is clever.

The forest has ears.

Flies have ears.

The eye of God is large.

Everything has an end.

It does not take as long to settle a quarrel as it takes a cow's udder to fill with milk after she has been covered.

There is no gecko that does not claim to possess the longest tail.

The belly does not swell if a woman is not pregnant.

Don't go to the plain without somebody to take the dust out of your eye.

Do not jump about, for there is no use in jumping about.

Foolishness first, then wisdom.

A zebra takes its stripes wherever it goes.

Warriors and cripples remain apart.

You cannot force water up a hill.

You are not like firewood which is burnt, you are always there.

Do not go gathering fruit when a dance is taking place.

Don't make a cloth for carrying a child in before the child is born.

The zebra cannot do away with his stripes.

A proverb does not answer itself.

One house cannot be divided.

Daylight follows a dark night.

He who has a father is still not circumcised.

He who is unable to dance says that the yard is stony.

What does it matter whether a person is one's own child or somebody else's as long as he does his duty.

A bull cannot bellow in two places at once.

Friendship likes distance.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Dawn Denton for details.

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