Tag Archives: African

Hakuna Matata Hakuna Haraka- Proverb


Hakuna Matata Hakuna Haraka


No worries, no hurries


“I know you heard this in the lion king but they only say half. The original proverb is a common Kenyan saying you use to tell people to enjoy life. The second half that Disney missed is actually the key part! Kenyans are fun people who love to party so we aren’t meant to rush or worry. We would use it whenever someone was stressing out or worrying to try and calm them down.”


Hakuna Matata is a well known phrase from Disney’s Lion King, and as the song states it means no worries. The second part of this proverb explains that by not hurrying or rushing things you can achieve a life without worries. This proverb has significant cultural importance as it serves for a micro chasm of the attitude of many Kenyans. This proverb is similar to western proverbs such as “stop and smell the roses”. Furthermore  Hakuna Matata has become a proverb that is known throughout the world and not just in Kenya.

Adhabu Ya Kaburi Aijuaye Maiti – Proverb


Adhabu Ya Kaburi Aijuaye Maiti


Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches


“This is a common proverb in Kenya. It means that you can’t understand what someone is going through unless you are going through it too. So if you were complaining about something and someone tried to tell you it wasn’t that bad you would say “Adhabu Ya Kaburi Aijuaye Maiti”.


The people of Kenya have a long history of suffering similar to other African nations who experienced European colonialism. Due to this many people had unspeakable experiences that are hard to empathize with for someone who may not understand that level of suffering. It makes sense that in order to gain social credit and empathy from someone the Kenyans developed a proverb. This proverb is similar to the western proverb “walk a mile in my shoes” as both show that you may not understand someone’s situation or hardship if you are not in it yourself. 

Asifuye Imemnyea – Proverb


Asifuye Imemnyea


He who presses rain has been rained on


“This proverb is also well known in Kenya. Whenever you need to vouch for someone or you are telling a story to make someone look good, if someone tries to tell you you’re wrong you say “Asifuye Imemnyea”. This means that you have pressed the rain or know this person so you have been rained on.”


Asifuye Imemnyea is an interesting proverb in that it is in defense of another person and invokes a strong natural image. To be rained on is to have met someone and experienced their kindness, similar to rain this leaves a mark on someone that can’t be ignored or removed easily. Thus like someone coming in from the rain to tell others about the weather, you are able to show your mark from pressing the rain and proof that you have been rained on and the person you are speaking about is a good person.

Waist Beads

Context: The informant is my sister (LC) who lives in Oakland and is a member of the diverse community there. The following text is transcribed from a phone call.

Main Text (LC): “I purchased these waste beads from a tent in Oakland. They are an old African tradition that has been brought over to America. Women wear them around their waist and they move if she gains or loses weight. They are kind of niché and cool and modern now while also being used as a weight-loss tool. The culture in Oakland added a new layer of symbolism to these beads by adding different chakras to the waist beads. Each color represents a different chakra and empowers the women who wear them in different ways.”

Analysis: These waist beads are a piece of material folklore that has come with its people to the United States from Africa. They originally more of a fashion piece but are now considered more culturally important to the African American community in Oakland and thus have developed new symbolism with the variations in chakra. The community in Oakland is very accepting and people love to share pieces of their heritage and ethnicity, which has created a mixing pot of folklore.

Caribbean Wedding Customs

The sacred nature of weddings in the Antilles of the Caribbean is often communicated with indigenous customs that take place before, during, and after the ceremony. “Jumping the Broom” is a right of passage for the newlywed. After vows are said before the church and the bride and groom have been pronounced husband and wife, they take a big fat leap over a wooden broom. Alternatively, this is done using branches or sticks of wood held together.

D: “I had to go out one time because they didn’t have no broom. And I went outside and put together some branches and sticks for them to use.”

Some other customs include throwing a handful of rice on the bride and groom (250)

M: To bring luck you sprinkle grains like rice or beans.

The act of scattering grain or beans ultimately signifies wealth. It’s believed to ensure financial stability for the bride and groom. In addition, sugar is used with water to mop the floors of the church prior to the ceremony. Sugar is used because it ensures there will be no disturbances and everything will be sweet. Salt is sometimes sprinkled at the entrance of the church.

M: Salt is put at the front to keep away negativity. My mom would do that for other people’s weddings.

The informant expressed that these customs are what make them feel far more in tune with their roots. These customs stem from African heritage and are most common in Caribbean weddings because of the lingering history of slavery. Jumping the broom was done amongst slaves centuries ago when marriage, for them, was prohibited so doing this signified union between the couple. If we look at this from another angle, seeing two people jump over a broom is the act of them physically taking a big leap over a big obstacle. They fight through it… together. That is why these wedding customs are so important to the informant’s culture. Every obstacle—whether it be oppression, negativity, or money—can be overcome and Caribbean wedding customs are here to instill hope for those who are making this big change in their lives.