African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Swaziland

The Praises of King Mswati III

I am grateful to Professor Zodwa Motsa for providing us with the following poem, the praises performed after the inauguration of King Mswati III of Eswatini (also known as Swaziland) in 1986.

Mswati the black one amongst the ashen
Warrior stick of horns who settles not in gourd-drums
But enters in the seed-bushels of the buffalos…

Ngwane III

Ngwane III is considered the first king of Swaziland, because during his reign from 1745 to 1780, he moved his people north of the Pongola River into what is today the Shiselweni district in the south-east of Swaziland, establishing his capital at Zombodze. In this tibongo by Maboya Fakudze, the most prolific of the imbongi at the court of Sobhuza II, Ngwane III is presented a man of utterly irrational violence until, in the course of his migration to Zombodze he comes to Ngwane’s Rock and the scene of desolation brings him to his senses and he begins to govern properly.

Angry one, of Dlamini.
Ngwane, angry at home…

Praises of Sobhuza II (second version)

This is a second version of the Praises of Sobhuza II. This version of Sobhuza’s tibongo, sung by Mhlabeleli Dlamini, another member of the royal house, focuses on the later part of Sobhuza’s reign after his position had been secured. It begins with Sobhuza’s dispatch of the regiments in World War 2, and continues with his later political campaigns, culminating in national independence and the triumph of the royalist party in parliament.

The hurrying one of Mahlokohla
Who hurries to Egypt…

Praises of Mbandzeni

While Mswati II (1840-1868), who expanded Swazi land beyond its present boundaries, is celebrated as the greatest Swazi king, his son Mbandzeni (1875-1889) was beyond all doubt the worst. He was forced to accept borders imposed jointly by the British and Afrikaners in 1881 and 1884, which left thousands of Swazis stranded in the eastern Transvaal. But he was also largely responsible for selling off what remained of his kingdom to White concession hunters. These included grazing and mineral rights, often for the same patch of land, rights to collect taxes and levy customs duties, and monopoly rights in every conceivable branch of the economy. Before the end of his reign, the Swazis had literally no right to live anywhere (except the eastern Transvaal), and no right to practice any kind of economic activity. Historians dispute whether Mbandzeni was a kind man out of his depth, or a vain and greedy man who cared little for his subjects. Imbongi Maboya Fakudze presents him, in this tibondo, as an unmitigated disaster.

Eater at noon,
By eating in the sun…

Praises of Mswati II

Mswati, also called Mavuso III, succeeded Sobhuza I as king, ruling from 1840 to 1868. There are seven modern versions of Mwsati’s tibongo, all sharing the same emphasis on the scale of his conquests from the Indian ocean to the Drakensberg Mountains and from Zululand into what is today southern Mozambique. The following tibongo is by Mcoshwa Dlamini, Mbanzeni’s grandson and a fellow member with Sobhuza II of the Balondolozi regiment. His poem is a celebration of military ferocity.

You of the inner circle!
Agitator of Mbelebeleni…

Praises of Sobhuza I

Sobhuza I (1780-1836) who ruled Swaziland from 1815 until his death, was also called Somholo, ‘the wonder’, because just before his birth his father Nduvungunye was struck by lightning. It was he who led his people away from the turmoil of the wars associated with the rise of Shaka Zulu, settling them in what is now central Swaziland. In this, he was a comparable figure to Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, to Soshangane of the Gaza, and Zwangendaba of the Ngoni.

In a tibongo which is full of affection, Sobhuza is praised for rescuing his people, hiding them in the forests of the Drakensberg mountains until it was safe to emerge. Key verbs are “arrived”, “escaped”, “stands”, and “emerges”, key images of things threatened surviving, and of things buried coming to light. The Imbongi is Mutsi Dlamini, a cousin of Sobhuza II.

Let him alone, the son of Langa.
Let him go upstream the Crocodile river…

Praises of Sobhuza II

Sobhuza II (1899-1982), one of the most remarkable Africans of the last century, was king of Swaziland for 61 years. Educated at the Lovedale Institution in South Africa and an early member of the African National Congress, he was at the same time a passionate traditionalist, pledged as he once put it “to extricate Africa from this idea of one man one vote”…

The Bride’s Arrival

Three Zulu songs, very commonly sung by members of the bridegroom’s family, welcoming the bride in teasing terms to her new home.

You have reached the place of weariness,
You have arrived and you will get weary!

African Poems