African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Shona (Page 2 of 2)

Three Women

This Shona Praise-Poem from Zimbabwe praises two women, the speaker’s mother-in-law and his wife, and criticises a third woman, his friend’s wife, for her laziness and unattractiveness. It belongs to the context of a beer party at which two friends, joined in the special joking relationship of ushamwari, are having a mock argument, each trying to outdo the other in eloquence.

The mother of my wife has guardian spirits like to mine.
On seeing me, she will give me her whole barn.


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

Riddles – The little boy blows his trumpet with his chest thrown out

Kakomana kanoridza mumhanzi kakafenegera
The little boy blows his trumpet with his chest thrown out.

The Mbira-Player

A Shona song from Zimbabwe, praising the Mbira-player for his musicianship. The Mbira, which is sometimes called a hand-piano, is described in Lines 24-29. It has two (sometimes three) keyboards, made of metal strips, which are plucked with the thumbs, and it is set in a hollow gourd to increase the resonance. The gourd is decorated with shells, which rattle to provide a rhythmic accompaniment. It is a versatile instrument, offering the player and singer a great range of effects. In this song, the words ‘Expert With The Rattling Shells’, ‘The Mbira-Shatterer’, ‘He Who Makes The Mbira Resound’, etc, are all praise-names.

Strike the Mbira, Expert With The Rattling Shells!
It is he The Mbira-Shatterer of whom you hear nothing but praise,

The Boast of the Good Farmer

A Shona poem from Zimbabwe, recited by the farmer himself at a beer party given for his friends to celebrate his harvest. The poem ends with a well-known song in which everybody joined.

I have ploughed and I have sweated,
And now I am enjoying my crops, my friends,

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African Poems