africa, ancestors, apartheid, Back from the Dead: The Rising of an African Spirit, biko, clan names, frank talk, freedom, funerals, geography, heritage, history, isindebele, isixhosa, isizulu, lineage, mandela, martin luther king jr, mlk, nat turner, nelson mandela, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, poetry, praise poems, praise poetry, rainbow nation, richard sherman, robert sobukwe, sesotho, setswana, siswati, southern africa, struggle, thomas sankara, tributes, weddings
Izibongo is an Nguni term literally meaning ‘clan names’. In SeSotho it is referred to as Dithoko, in SeTswana as Diboko and in SePedi as Diretho.
African oral poetry, the izibongo, are ancient praise poems which are a popular indigenous oral tradition in Southern Africa. Traditionally, it is used to praise kings, queens and all royalty; praise poetry is an essential part of our essence as African people.
It is the vessel of our history, our cultural heritage and our reference point on how to express ourselves.
Africans in general rely on praise poetry to identify themselves because many Africans have clan names which form the basis of our identity. These clan names are bound together in sequence or hierarchy relative to geography, history, lineage and major historical events.
Praise poetry is used to compile and narrate the history, heritage and lineage of a people, family, a nation, etc.
During the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa this ancient tradition was revived and widely used for protest poetry at large public gatherings.
This ancient tradition is also used to praise and celebrate the legacy of individuals of note and record events of great importance – battles, wars, famine, floods, marriage, births, deaths, arrivals of foreigners, freedom, etc.
Excerpt from a translation of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela praises:
It’s a dream of the dead
It’s a dream that people thought would never come true
People have cried till they gave up
How many souls are under the ground?
How many corpses because of Mandela
In my recently published book, Back From The Dead: The Rising of an African Spirit, I have included three praise poems dedicated to Nelson Mandela (Caught Forever), Martin Luther King Jr (Schooling Us) and Steve Biko (Urban Legend).
I have also written tribute pieces to celebrate the legacies of Thomas Sankara and Robert Sobukwe, and I am currently researching Nat Turner with the intention of writing a tribute piece based on his contribution to the struggle for freedom for all.
Praise poetry is often used to invoke the presence of the ancestors in healing ceremonies, funerals and weddings.
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Coming back from the dead
Rising from the ashes
The earth rumbling from within
From within the hearts of a few good men
Sons of mummies
Soldiers of reason…..
An excerpt from “Coming back from the dead” – complete poem can be found in the anthology of poetry – Back From The Dead: The Rising of an African Spirit
Copyright © knox mahlaba 2014
Author – Back From The Dead: The Rising of an African Spirit
1976 soweto riots, africa, afro, amazon, Amazon author, anthology, apartheid, Back from the Dead: The Rising of an African Spirit, biko, black panthers, book reviews, burkina faso, chris brown, dona richards, ebola, freedom of speech, hector peterson, historically black colleges, i have a dream, john f kennedy, khafre, knox mahlaba, kunta kente, love, malcolm x, martin luther king jr, middle passage, muhammad ali, nelson mandela, obama, poetry, racism, reading, sankara, segregation, south africa, soweto, spoken word, tommie smith, trials and tribulations, washington dc
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Back From The Dead: The Rising of an African Spirit
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By T. Lawrence on October 16, 2014Format: PaperbackIf you want poetry with a message that everyone can use, this is the book for you! These poems are about surviving the odds and finding your inner strength. The main themes of the book are appreciation of nature, accepting all religions, slavery, civil rights, and general politics. Political heavyweights such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandella, and Malcolm X are mentioned.This is not an anthology of fluffy poetry and flowery descriptions. These poems are about exposing hard truths in a variety of areas. The author writes about controversial issues regarding his home country of Africa while superimposing them on the entire world. However, the reader doesn’t have to agree with his viewpoint to appreciate his honest and skilled writing technique.
Knox’s command of the English language is phenomenal! His vocabulary is top notch! I enjoyed his use of about three levels of language: formal language, everyday language with slang, and “slave” language.
The anthology was full of powerful quotes. The following four sayings are my favorites because they summarize some of the main themes of the book: “You’ll never know how strong you are until being strong is no longer a choice.” “Just ‘cus you been treated like dirt don’t mean you’re dirt.” “Ditch the slave mentality” “Nothing is concrete. We’re all stuck in an emulsion.”
I look forward to reading more from this author!
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“All I hope to accomplish
is to challenge you to use your talents
for the betterment of mankind!”