Read these beautiful Kiswahili proverbs, illustrated for the 21st century

Misemo ya Kiswahili
Misemo ya Kiswahili
Image: Musa Omusi
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Kenyan artist Musa Omusi is hoping to keep popular traditional Kiswahili sayings alive with his Misemo Series of illustrations

He has created a vibrant series of animated and typographic representations of “misemo” – wise, old sayings – that capture the urban energy of Nairobi and Kenyan culture.

“The Misemo Series is informed by the need to showcase the wisdom that has been passed down from generations that came before us by ‘wahenga’ (wise men) in a cool, present and different perspective,” says Omusi.

But preserving tradition doesn’t preclude turning to modernity for inspiration. “Nairobi is a melting pot of all Kenyan ambition, progression and dreams. An emerging and growing music, art and tech scene heavily influence the artwork developed,” says Omusi, the founder and creative director of Made with Love, a creative studio in Nairobi.

With all this change comes the evolution of culture, language and social interactions.  Many of the misemo are gems, however, offering timeless insights and unique descriptions.

“Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba.” (Little by little, the container gets filled. While we may overlook small changes, they are the ones which, put together over time, eventually make a difference).

“Macho hayana pazia.” (The eyes have no blinds. Don’t do things with the intent of hiding).

“Dawa ya moto ni moto.” (Fight fire with fire).

“Akili ni nywele kila mtu ana zake.” (Wisdom is like hair, everyone has his/her own. Celebrate your diversity/uniqueness/singularity/individualism).

This post originally appeared at Design Indaba. Follow @designindaba on Twitter. We welcome your comments at