Resource 3: Praise poems and stories
Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils
A traditional Zulu praise poem – in isiZulu and in English translation, with some explanatory notes
|Jama son of Ndaba!
|UJama kaluthwana kangakanani,
|Jama is not deceived to the slightest extent,
|Even on the point of a spear he can be at ease,
|Even on branches he can hold tight.
|Obengumqingo wang’itshe laseZihlalo,
|He who was solid like a rock of Zihlalo,
|Ebilingalayezwa ngabaphath’ izinhlendla,
|Which could be commanded by those who carry barbed spears,
|Thina bamaklwa singathath’ichoba sophule,
|While we of the broad-bladed spears could save ourselves by using a sandstone,
|UMabopha wakithi kwaZwangendaba,
|Inspirer of our place at Zwangendaba,
|Ongibophe zaluk’ inhlazane nemfuduluko,
|Who inspired me as the cattle went out to graze at midday,
|Obabis’ ihlaba elikuMahogo,
|Who made bitter the aloe of Mahogo,
|Othabis’ idukumbane elikuNgcingci
|Who made glad the trifle of Ngcingci.
This is a poem in praise of Jama who was an early Zulu chief. Hlaba (aloe) and Dukumbane (trifle) were the names of regiments of young soldiers who were made ‘sharp’ (bitter) or pleased (glad) by Jama.
A praise poem written by a South African pupil
Praise poem for Sekhukunene by Nathaniel Seleka
A praise song sung by children in Soweto
An explanation of some of the words and ideas follows the poem.
- Mrs Albertina Sisulu is one of the heroes of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Her husband Walter was one of the leaders of the African National Congress and was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. While Walter was in prison, Albertina was not allowed to leave Orlando township in Soweto and for much of the time she was a banned person. This meant, among other things, that she could not be quoted in the media (i.e. she was silenced – line 12). She worked in Soweto as a midwife, helping to deliver babies.
- Sawubona (line 7) is a Zulu greeting, roughly translated as ‘Hello!’
- laaitjie (line 8) is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘little child’ or ‘young one’.
- SB (line 10) refers to the Security Branch – the branch of the police who checked to see if Mrs Sisulu had defied her banning order.
A Yoruba poem in praise of the python
Some praise poetry praises animals or objects rather than people. Here is a poem from the Yoruba people. Explanation of some of the language is provided after the poem.
- To walk with a swagger is to walk proudly – thinking you are the best, showing off. In Line 1, the poem describes the python as a swaggering prince.
- The questions in Lines 6 to 9 suggest that the python has many houses – both on the ground and in water.
- In verse two, the poem suggests that other animals and people would be too frightened to walk next to the snakes – that is why snakes ‘walk’ singly (by themselves).