Diescho’s Dictum: Wisdom of African Proverbs on Love


Love, which is almost impossible to define or explain, is the tissue of the thread that binds and weaves human interactions and mutual living.
In the debate about which of the ancient four cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance) was more important than the others, the Apostle Paul concluded by his additional three Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. He sealed the conversation with these words: ‘And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love’ (1 Cor: 13.13)

Love can happen to anyone at any time, and it is often completely unexpected. Often, it takes turns that can turn things and indeed life upside down. Since human life began, most important decisions have been made because of and for love.

Since human life began in Afrika, human wisdom about this difficult subject evolved out of and from experiences on this continent. What we know have been passed on through ages – the advice passed from mother to daughter and father to son has been the most valuable source of support, comfort and re-assurance in any family, organisation, community or nation.

Here is a glimpse of what Afrika taught about love:
It is better to be loved than feared.
Where there is love there is no darkness.
Dogs don’t love people; they love the place where they are fed.
The way to the beloved isn’t thorny.
One doesn’t love another, if one doesn’t accept anything from that person.
Love doesn’t listen to rumours.
Love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly.
If a woman doesn’t love you, she calls you brother.
Love put the eaglet out of its nest.
People who love one another do not dwell on each other’s mistakes.
To be smiled at isn’t to be loved.
The house of a person we love is never far.
A letter from the heart can be read on the face.
Love has to be shown by deeds not words.
Love doesn’t rely on physical features.
He, who loves you, loves you with your dirt.
The one who loves an unsightly person is the one who makes him beautiful.
To love someone who does not love you is like shaking a tree to make the dewdrops fall.
He who doesn’t like chattering women must stay a bachelor.
A young wife tends to cook too much at first.
The way you got married isn’t the way you’ll get divorced.
A bird can be guarded, a wife can’t.
A man without a wife is like a vase without flowers.
It is the habit that a child forms at home, that follows them to their marriage.
If you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains as is.
Having beauty doesn’t mean understanding the perseverance of marriage.
If you do not travel, you will marry your own sister.
A man that does not lie shall never marry.
One who plants grapes by the roadside, and one who marries a pretty woman, share the same problem.
Marriage is like a groundnut: you have to crack them to see what is inside.
The buttocks are like a married couple; though there is constant friction between them they will still love and live together.
How gently glides the married life away, when she who rules still seems but to obey.
He who marries a beauty marries trouble.
A woman who has not been twice married cannot know what a perfect marriage is.
A good wife is easy to find, but suitable in-laws are rare.
It is better to be married to an old lady than to remain unmarried.
A woman who is not successful in her own marriage has no advice to give to her younger generations.
A married couple is neither enemies nor friends.
If money were to be found up in the trees, most people would be married to monkeys.
The man may be the head of the home, but the wife is the heart.
If there is cause to hate someone, the cause to love has just begun.
The man that won’t marry a woman with other admirers won’t marry a woman at all.
Talking with one another is loving one another.
One who loves you, warns you.
The most dangerous thing a man needs is a woman.
When one is in love, a cliff becomes a meadow.
Marriage is not a tight knot, but a slipknot.
Love, like rain, does not choose the grass on which it falls.
Apart from the inexplicable feelings of elation, there are physical changes in the body that love brings about.
A letter from the heart can be read on the face.
When in love, a cliff becomes a meadow.
When you fall in love nothing seems too much trouble and difficulties become almost trivial.
The best part of happiness lies in the secret heart of a lover.
The people around you (and the person you love) seem to become more beautiful, no matter what they look like or how they dress.
The one who loves an unsightly person is the one who makes them beautiful.
He who loves the vase loves also what is inside.
For those not blessed with beauty: If you are ugly you must either learn to dance or make love.
When we fall in love, we want to be protected; we want to feel someone is making us their priority.
A woman is a flower in a garden, her husband is the fence around it.
And as a garden needs to be nurtured and appreciated, so does love. It can be hard work to make love a success.
Love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly.
So many little things make a man love a woman in a big way.
If a young woman says no to marriage just wait until her breasts sag.
Love of course needs to be at the centre of this decision to marry.
If you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains as is.
Married life has its ups and downs.
But a word of advice to all who fall in love: Don’t be so much in love that you can’t tell when it’s raining.
The only cure for love is marriage.
You know who you love but you can’t know who loves you.
If anyone makes you laugh, it is not always because they love you.
If love is a sickness, patience is the remedy.
Love doesn’t rely on physical features.
Love is a despot who spares no one.
Don’t try to make someone hate the person he loves, for he will go on loving, but he will hate you.
The quarrel of lovers is the renewal of love.
Let your love be like the misty rain, coming softly but flooding the river.
Love for something makes a man blind and deaf.
If the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars?
One who marries for love alone will have bad days, but good nights.
Do not treat your loved one like a swinging door: you are fond of it but you push it back and forth.
Don’t be so in love that you can’t tell when it’s raining.
Love is a painkiller.

Do not marry a woman you met on the dance floor, for she will run with the drummer.
When you marry a widow, ask how her husband died.
Our world today is without love. Our world is without virtues. We, in Afrika, have lost even the great humanity we once were known for, Ubuntu, which is the human practice of treating others like human beings no matter the circumstance.

Our world, our Afrika, our Namibia is a banal place wherein power, glory and wealth loom larger than this human tissue of love, that spirit that necessitates caring for one another. It important and necessary that we learn to hear our inner voices – if we have them – to pause and ponder over the net result of true love as human beings, all created in the image of God. Not just love for oneself, for power, success or importance. It is that love for others, without whom and without whose happiness our life is meaningless, in the final analysis. In all religions and traditions this is what is captured by the Golden Rule that Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and all the Greats lived by: Treat others as you wish to be treated by them.


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