African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Animal Poems (Page 2 of 2)

The Honeybird

A poem of the Hurutshe people from South Africa. The honey-bird (also called the honeyguide or the hunter’s friend), will lead a hunter to a bee hive so that when he has taken the honey-combs the bird can eat the grubs.

Bird of the thorn apple trees,
Bird with more kind-heartedness than a chief…

Tiger (From the Ifa Oracle)

This is one of the many thousands of poems associated with the Ifa oracle of the Yoruba people. There are 256 different Odu or branches of lfa poetry, and many hundreds of different poems are associated with each Odu. The Ifa priest learns these poems during many years of training. Each poem is associated with a set of ‘throws’ of the divination instruments (cowrie shells, kola nuts etc) to indicate which poem is suitable when a client comes to him for advice. He recites the poem to the client who must find his own meaning in the words. The Ifa priest will also direct the sacrifices to be made to the relevant Orisha following the divination.

This poem from the Ifa oracle illustrates how, through a superb description of the tiger’s hide and claws, tiger was granted honour by consulting Ifa and making sacrifice.

Ifa divination was performed for Tiger,
The one with the lovely and shining skin…


An extract from a Shona Praise-Poem from Zimbabwe, the clan praise of Chihota’s clan. For Chilota’s people the zebra is a symbol, and the sparkling description of the zebra is a metaphor for the qualities of the clan.

Thank you, Zebra,
Adorned with your own stripes

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African Poems