A Gonga Praise-Poem from the Kafa High­ lands of south-west Ethiopia. The poem records the drama of a succession dispute. Tumi Taki, the king of the Hinnaro people, was overthrown by his wife Sini who wanted to make her lover Sisi (or Sisiti) the new king. Sisi, however, was offered the crown by the counsellors only on condition that he abandoned Sini, which he refused to do, choosing his mistress rather than the throne. The poem expresses deep contempt for Sisi’s lack of concern for the people, and is a good example of how Praise-Poetry may be used to express sharp criticism of bad rulers.

SINI
After the death of Gamma Kegocci,
Tumi Taki has left me empty-handed.
There are cows full of milk,
But he never instructs the people to milk them.
There are beehives full of honey,
But he never instructs the people to empty them.
There are oxen ready for ploughing,
But he never orders the people to harness them.
He has become just like a commoner!
He has become just like a medium!
Since he has become king
Sorghum does not grow:
Since he has become king
Cows do not give milk:
Since he has become king
The royal trumpet is hardly blown.
I am surrounded by weeds,
I am surrounded by maskal flowers.
Let Sisiti become king,
Let Sisiti become king
And make the country greater!
The kingship would be in good hands with him.

SISI
Your figure is pleasing
Like the fat tail of a sheep:
The sight of your hips is pleasing,
The gums of your teeth are pleasing,
Like the fat tail of a sheep.
My lady, who gives me butter,
My lady, who dresses so well,
My lady, who wears colourful garb,
My lady, who wears fine cloth,
Do you ask me to leave her?
Do you ask me to lose my love?
Would that you lose your oxen grazing in pasture!
Would that your oxen leave their stalls!
Would that your cows leave their stalls!
Would that your barley leave your fields!
Would that your teff grains leave your fields!

trans. by W. Lange,
from Domination and Resistance: Narrative Songs of the Kafa Highlands,
Michigan State University Press