African Riddles

July 23, 2010

In most African societies, riddles are a form of art. They are simple and elegant ways to communicate a lot of meaning in few words. Riddles play an important role in the traditions of African speech and conversation.  Like proverbs, African riddles are brief and based on observations of nature. However, with riddles, the listener is expected to guess the answer to a question or the meaning of a statement.  Riddles make an important contribution to children’s full participation in the social, cultural, political, and economic life of African communities, especially by fostering critical thinking and transmitting indigenous knowledge.  Riddles are used manly for entertainment and stimulating thinking.  We have included riddles as a form of entertainment, especially for children.  This is an outstanding way of introducing them to African literature and critical thinking.  Like, the proverbs and folktales, this activity is optional.


Yoruba of Nigeria Riddle:

Who has a house too small for guests?

Answer: A turtle.


Ga of Ghana Riddle:

What do you look at with one eye, but never with two?

Answer: The inside of a bottle.


Hausa of West Africa Riddle:

Why is a man like pepper?

Answer: Until you have tested him, you can’t tell how strong he is.


Swahili of East Africa Riddle:

What things always chase each other but never overtake one another?

Answer: The wheels of a vehicle.


Massai of East Africa Riddle:

Who has more courage than a Maasai warrior?

Answer: Two Maasai warriors.


Congolese Riddle:

Who can whistle from another man’s mouth?

Answer: The other man.

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