A stream of safari ants near Kyalavo, Kenya.

Every culture has their own sayings and proverbs.  They usually come with a cultural context that might not be translated literally, but that context gives insight into the culture.  In Kenya and Tanzania you will find proverbs everywhere–on kangas, in children’s stories, and in everyday conversation.  I thought I’d share a few inspired by the natural world.

  • Macho ya chura hayamzuii ng’ombe kunyua maji  (the eyes of the frog won’t stop the cow from drinking water).  This is one of my favorites.  Probably because of the cartoon image that comes to mind.  My own take on this saying is that people will do what they need to do, regardless of frog eyes.
  • Wingi wa siafu ndio nguvu yao (the multitude of ants is their strength).  Siafu (safari ants) are eating machines.  They will eat anything organic in their path so hide your babies, your chickens, and anything else you value that can’t run away.  They freak me out.  They did me a service once, though.  The outhouse I had during my Peace Corps service was notoriously infested with cockroaches.  The siafu came through and then, no roaches!  One little bitty single ant won’t do much more than draw a little blood, but a stream of ants is a force to reckon with.
  • Bahari itatufikisha popote (the ocean leads us anywhere).  This saying inspires both a feeling of helplessness from the overwhelming power of the ocean and of adventure or possibility from the vastness and wonder oceans have to offer.