Endangered African Proverbs Collections: Bukusu (Kenya) Proverbs

Art, Wit and Wisdom of African Proverbs: One Hundred Proverbs From The Bukusu Of Western Kenya

Collected and Explained by Monica Nalyaka Mweseli

Nairobi, Kenya -- October, 2001
Nairobi, Kenya: Privately photocopied, 2001. 37 pages.

Reviewed by Joseph Kariuki

One of the follow-ups to the African Proverbs Project (1993-1996) is the collection of African proverbs in languages that are small, not well known or in danger of dying out. These are called "Endangered African Proverbs Collections." A modest collection of around 100 proverbs in these languages is being carried out through our four Regional Resource Centers in Africa. The most recent example is Art, Wit and Wisdom of African Proverbs: One Hundred Proverbs From The Bukusu Of Western Kenya collected and explained by Professor Monica Nalyaka Mweseli. The research has been carried out under the direction of the Hekima College Library in Nairobi, Kenya, the Regional Resource Center in Eastern Africa. Bukusu is a language used in western Kenya.                     

In this collection, Mweseli uses a simple methodology where she renders the proverb in the Bukusu language followed by an English and Swahili translation. For some proverbs that she feels "are difficult to understand and to translate since they lack either meaningful English words for translation or do not match with relevant English words", she offers some social-cultural explanations. This pamphlet collection is only the first phase of her research with the current pamphlet containing the first 100 proverbs arranged alphabetically from letter A to C. In the introduction to the collection, she shows a general application and use of proverbs drawing examples from Nigeria's Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Following this she says that Bukusu Proverbs can be used to help understand, "Bukusu's spiritual and moral convictions, historical evidence, and even rules of etiquette" (page 3).

Professor Mweseli teaches literature at the University of Nairobi, Kenya College of Education and External Studies (CEES). E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it