The following Northern Sotho poem appears to be about a leopard; but the allusion is to the chiefs of the Tlokwa, whose symbol was a leopard.

It is the yellow leopard with the spots
The yellow leopard of the cliffs
It is the leopard of the broad cheeks
Yellow leopard of the broad face, I-do-not-fear
The black and white one, I-get-into-a-small-tree
I tear off the eyebrows (1)
Clawer am I, I dig in my claws
My people (adversaries) I leave behind
Saying: this was not one leopard, there were ten.
Mr. Claws, scratch for yourself
Even for a big man it’s no disgrace to yell if scratched
Leopards of the Tlokwa country
Of Bolea, where the Tlokwa came from
Wild cat with the broad face
Both impala buck we eat and cattle
You died in Botlokwa
In the Tlokwa-land of Mmathsaka Maimane
Tlokwa-land of the sons of Mokutupi of Thsaka
Where do you go in Tlokwa-land (to seize cattle)?
It is full of blood, it has got the liver
Leopard of Bolea.
Yellow leopard of the clan Maloba the great
Yellow spotted one
Poor nobody, active smart fellow that summons together a huge gathering
My victim goes away with his scalp hanging down over his eyes
Leopard of the many spots
Leopard of the very dark spots
Leopard grand old man (formidable one)
Even when it can no longer bite, it still butts its adversaries out of the way with its forehead.

‘Praises of animals in Northern Sotho’
from Bantu Studies 12 (1938)
S.K. Lekgothoane


Footnotes

  1. I-get-into-a-small-tree, I tear off the eyebrows: The leopard sits in a tree over the path and claws at the head of a passer-by.