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African proverbs: “A good name is better than riches”

African proverbs: “A good name is better than riches”

African proverbs: “A good name is better than riches”

In an early blog entry I explained that while researching my book, Burning Embers, I read a lot about Africa – including books on proverbs. In any culture, proverbs are a poetic and memorable way to impart wisdom. I’ve decided to run a series of book exploring a proverb in turn, and how it relates to the themes, characters, settings and plot in my book.

This week I’ve been thinking about the proverb “A good name is better than riches” – in other words, being known as a good person is of more value than money. It’s easy to see from where the proverb originated: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). Of course, missionaries to Africa over many years worked to convert natives to Christianity, so it is little surprise that Christian proverbs would filter into the African school of the wise.

Tokunbo Adelekan explores the basis of this proverb in the Bible in his book African Wisdom: “Abraham is known for his faith, not his finances. Job is regarded for his patience and not his pecuniary fortune. Solomon had the world’s wealth, yet he prayed for wisdom, not wealth. … Be a person of integrity, peace, and justice, and your name will provide you access to places that money cannot.”

Wise words indeed. The point is that all the wealth in the world is meaningless if you aren’t doing good.

This proverb strikes a chord with me when I think of Rafe, the leading man in Burning Embers. Rafe is an indisputably wealthy businessman, with a successful plantation and nightclub. But his reputation is tarnished – he is viewed as a womaniser, and rumours abound that he has had a hand in dark, wicked acts. As a result, his heart is closed – until Coral comes along and coaxes it open, that is. Only once Rafe is able to be honest with Coral, and himself, can he truly have “a good name”; and then the source of his happiness is not money, but love.

 

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