African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Islam

The Yerima Mohammadu

An extract from a Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient Bornu kingdom of northern Nigeria (see also The Sultan of Bornu). the Yerima was an official responsible for the defence and general administration of the northern part of the Bornu kingdom and was invariably the grandson of a Sultan.

This Praise-Poem is said to refer to the Yerima who held office during the reign of Sultan Arri Umarmi, 1645-85, though the joke about reading (line 14) must date from a later time.

The Yerima is like a prancing horse whose legs are not hobbled,
Like a camel which wanders where it will without a halter…

The Day of Resurrection

A Hausa poem from northern Nigeria. This is an Islamic poem, composed in writing but intended for public performance. The prospect of the day of resurrection is a warning to all who do evil.

Know you that tyranny will be darkness on the Day of Resurrection,
It is the word of the Messenger of God, Muhammed:


Ten separate love songs from Somalia. Balwo means ‘sorrow’, and the subject of this type of song is invariably unhappy love which is described briefly in striking and unusual images. These songs are immensely popular in Somalia and are regarded by some as blasphemous.

Woman, lovely as lightning at dawn,
Speak to me once even.

The Sultan of Bornu

The Sultan of Bornu, A Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria. The poem, which was recorded in 1926, describes an individual king, Sultan Momadu Ajimi, who reigned in 1737-51. But it is also a statement of what an ideal king should be like, providing the Sultan with a pattern that the official Praise-Singer implies he should follow.

African Poems