African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Swahili (Page 2 of 2)

The Legend of Liyongo

Liyongo, the national hero of the Swahili people, lived in the area of the delta of the Tana River, north of Mombasa. His father, ruler of the city-state of Shaka, had two sons – Liyongo the elder, and Mringwari. On his father’s death, Mringwari was chosen as ruler and Liyongo was imprisoned: he escaped, joining the villagers and ivory hunters on the mainland, and building a reputation for bravery, chivalry, generosity and justice. Many of the poems praising him are said to have been composed by him, so that he is also celebrated as a poet.

Oh my child, be silent, do not cry;
Listen to the tale of the King of Bauri,


A Swahili poem, well known along the East Coast of Africa. The poem is a husband’s praise of his wife Mwananazi.

Give me a chair that I may sit down
And serenade my Mwananazi,


A Swahili love-song from the East African coast, and probably the best known and most widely admired of all Swahili poems in translation. Like Mwananazi, it is associated with Liyongo, the Swahili national hero.

O lady, be calm and cry not but sing to your suitors.
Sing to those who guide you and to the discerning passers-by

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African Poems