July 18, 2022
Spoken by hundreds of millions of people in East Africa and beyond, the Swahili language prides itself in the use of sayings. Swahili sayings are used to warn, educate, challenge, make a point or counter a point that has been made, and so on. In this article, we explore five Swahili sayings that are common among native speakers and that anyone interested in the language ought to listen to owing to their connection to the Swahili culture.
As you may deduce from the words, this Swahili saying is used as a warning. The saying owes its popularity from not only the rhyming of the words that make it up but also from the fact that it conveys an important aspect of Swahili. Among the Swahili and other East Africans (all Swahili speakers), elders are esteemed and believed to be extremely wise, having lived for long and experienced a lot in their lives.
They are therefore highly honored, and their words keenly listened to. Apart from warning listeners of the consequences of not heeding elders’ words, this Swahili saying conveys East African values about the place that elders hold in society.
This Swahili saying encourages listeners to work hard. Besides that though, the saying expresses two key aspects of East African culture. First, that it is possible to depend on one’s siblings since family members are obligated to care for one another; and second, that one must not hinge one’s survival on such dependence because it can only take one so far. This Swahili saying thus, is a lesson on both familial ties and obligations, and hard work.
This Swahili saying is another emphasis on hard work. Listeners are encouraged to work hard to achieve what they desire. In addition to mere hard work though, the Swahili saying also implies that the work one puts in achieving their desires must be honest – hence one who desires that which is under the bed must bend!
On its part, this Swahili saying encourages a “slow but sure” attitude. It discourages recklessness and clumsiness in pursuit of speedy conclusion of one’s duties. The Swahili saying is used to educate newbies and to warn hasty workers.
This Swahili saying is used to warn listeners to consider the consequences of their actions. Some things may be attractive and alluring to do or take part in. However, once one involves oneself in such matters, the outcome could demand much more than one may be ready or able to do. This Swahili saying is a warning to anyone who may consider such matters before they think about the possible outcome of their actions.