Tshiluba Proverbs and Their Meanings

As elsewhere in Africa, proverbs are an integral part of Luba culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Passed on from generation to generation for centuries, they are still used today and are much a part of everyday speech. They are used to illustrate ideas, reinforce arguments and deliver messages of inspiration, consolation, celebration and advice. They can convey wisdom, truth, a discovery of ideas, as well as life lessons.  In this blog, I would like to share some of the proverbs in Tshiluba language (my native language) with translations and meanings in English.

Tshiluba language is spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is a national language, along with Lingala, Swahili, and Kikongo. The prefix Tshi followed by the suffix Luba, means “luba language” or language of the Luba people.  About ten million people, chiefly in the Kasai Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, speak Tshiluba.

  1. Tshiluba: Nzambi ntshipapayi kasu kupa, biasuayi kupa, kanza katu kalua kanya.
    • English: When God gives, the hand shrinks to receive it all.
    • Meaning: This means that one needs to be patient for, when God gives, He does it abundantly to the extent that one fails to manage properly.
  2. Tshiluba: Bilengele mbiasa munkelende.
    • English: Good things are found among thorns.
    • Meaning: This is to say that no sweet thing comes easily. One has to endure and work hard to enjoy the benefit of their labor.
  3. Tshiluba: Munu umue kawena mua kukuma bionso
    • English: A finger cannot do all by itself
    • Meaning: The proverb stipulates that one cannot do all by himself. Unity is strength.
  4. Tshiluba: Tshidi muntu ukuna kitsidiyi upola
    • English: One oafs what he sows.
    • Meaning: This wise saying indulges one to work before expecting anything. Only those who do something with their lives should expect results in return
  5. Tshiluba: Mukaji wa badiadia badiadia wakafuisha mbayende muitu.
    • English: An envious woman caused her husband’s death in the bush. (Job 5:2)
    • Meaning: Here men are asked to be wary of envious women who will make the lives miserable in search of acquiring everything they need to satisfy their envy, for they might end up losing their own lives.
  6. Tshiluba: Bela ngela, bijimina mbianyi.
    • English: Let me misuse what is mine.
    • Meaning: The proverb encourages people to enjoy the fruit of their hard labor and discourages those who judge them on the same.
  7. Tshiluba: Mbuji utu wadia pabule bua muonji wende
    • English: A goat can only feed within the range of its cord.
    • Meaning: People are advised to live within their means, for extravagance can lead to disastrous occurrences
  8. Tshiluba: Kajiji ka bundu kakaya ne tshitalu mutshina
    • English: An aloof fly was buried with the dead.
    • Meaning: Good deeds cannot be done out of shame for, you might end up hurting yourself.
  9. Tshiluba: Budimu mbupite buanga
    • English: Caution surpasses witchcraft
    • Meaning: prevention is better than cure
  10. Tshiluba: Bakupa peba wapangana
    • English: Learn to give as you receive
    • Meaning: When God blesses you, always think of sharing your blessings with others. The more you share, the more you are blessed.

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