He is referred to as the father of Modern African Literature and perhaps the most read African author. But more importantly, he is my most favorite author from Africa. His name is Chinua Achebe.

Among other things, I find his use of language intriguing. The way he infuses the traditional African worldview (the Igbo culture particularly) into his works is such a delight. But how can you even refer to his works without a recourse to his rich use of proverbs? According to him, “proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten“.

I love proverbs and Achebe never fails to supply them in great measure. I thought to share some of them with you. Hence, for the next three days, I’ll be treating you to some of the proverbs used in his works. They are full of wisdom and witty at the same time. Enjoy!

๐Ÿ˜ฑ It is praiseworthy to be brave and fearless…but sometimes it is better to be a coward. We often stand in the compound of a coward to point at the ruins where a brave man used to live. The man who has never submitted to anything will soon submit to the burial mat.

๐Ÿค When a handshake goes beyond the elbow we know it has turned to another thing.

๐Ÿ”ฅ You do not put a piece of live coal into a child’s palm and ask him to carry it with care.

๐Ÿ˜จ A coward may cover the ground with his words but when the time comes to fight he runs away.

๐ŸŽญ The world is like a mask dancing. If you want to see it well you do not stand in one place.

๐ŸฆŽ A man who brings home any-infested faggots should not complain if he is visited by lizards.

โ˜  The death that will kill a man begins as an appetite.

Thanks for reading!

Image Credit: Paris Review

ยฉayansola ibukun



  1. โ€The world is like a mask dancing. If you want to see it well you do not stand in one place.โ€ I love this quote because it informs me that there is so many things I am yet to see but if I choose to be stationed in one place, I will not see the world around me. It surprises me when people live in a country and they havenโ€™t seen some well known places in that vicinity or much rather donโ€™t even see the beauty of that place until someone from outside of that region visits and makes noise of that site is when those belonging to that land, take notice of it. There is so much around us but we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones. Thank you for sharing ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “There is so much around us but we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones”. ๐Ÿ‘Œ Karen demystifies that proverb. You are absolutely right. One can’t enjoy make the best of things if one refuses to stay on a spot. Thanks (guru) for reading with a diligent mind.


  2. Ohh! I love reading Achebe’s works for his direct intro of Igbo words, phrases, proverbs into English text without translation or use of English equivalence. I love those proverbs so much๐Ÿ˜Š. Can’t wait to read more of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ๐Ÿ˜ You totally get the man’s style. Simple but not simplistic – subtle. I literally highlighted every portion where there are proverbs in my copy of his works. I’m glad you like them.


  3. Chinuea Achebe, The giant of Africa Literature uses his African proverbs to reinforce many of the themes in his novels . I have read some of his works such as: There was a country, No longer at ease, Things fall apart, Arrow of God. He captures the essence of proverbs.

    No longer at ease is a political satire. Obi is the protagonist of the novel; he is the representative of the new educated class of Nigeria. Despite his education we see that Obi is involved in bribery and corruption which led to his downfall.

    I liked some proverbs I came across when reading this novel such as;

    When you see a toad jumping in broad day light, then you know something is wrong.
    If you want to eat a toad, you look for a fat juicy one.
    A person who has not secured a place on the floor should not look for a mat (P.54).


    1. Wawu! Pamela, you’re indeed a disciple of Achebe. You ability to communicate the African worldview in English is topnotch. Indeed, your summary of No Longer at Ease is precise. You should read Man of the People too – he wrote that work ‘prophetically’. I’ve read all of his works – both fiction and non-fiction repeatedly.

      Thanks for reading and making such profound contribution.


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