African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: War Poems (Page 2 of 2)


A Hausa Praise-Poem from northern Nigeria. Rano was a chief killed in battle around 1870. The poem’s emphasis is placed very firmly and vividly on Rano’s exploits in battle up to the time of his death.

Line’s 5-8 are Rano’s own words, as he rejects food to get on with fighting. He is remembered as a ruler who bound people into new relationships – which explains the epitaph that, since he died, ‘marriage has become unmanageable’.

Sarkin Rano is a beloved of God;
Since he fell in battle, marriage has become unmanageable…

Coward, Crawl Back

An Acoli poem from Uganda.

Coward, crawl back into your mother’s womb!
We are sons of the brave

The Grandsons of Makomo

A song of a Shona clan from Zimbabwe, boasting of the invincibility of their ancestors as a warning to other rival clans. The ‘Sons of Chihuri’ say that their enemy has taken on more than he bargained for.

We, the grandsons of Makomo, are not treated like that!
No one in this country plays with us,

The Army is Going to War

A Kipsigi war song from Kenya. Though the song describes the army and its exploits, the purpose of the raid is to capture cattle, this time from the Masai (see also the Cattle Raid). The names in the song are of people and places.

Child’s mother oo wo ho
Child’s mother oo wo ho

Ogun, God of War

A Yoruba Praise-Poem from Nigeria. Ogun is the God of iron and metallurgy. He is pictured as a blacksmith, but presides over every activity in which iron is used – hoes for cultivating, cutlasses for reaping, guns for hunting, cars for travelling, and so on. He therefore becomes the God of creativity and of harvesting, of hunting and of warfare, of invention and exploration and destruction.

The Battle of Tumu Tumu Hill

A Gikuyu song from Kenya, describing a battle during the Independence struggle in the 1950s. General Kariba’s group in the Kenya Levellation Army fought the British on Tumu Tumu Hill near Kirimukuyu. The heroism of Waruanja who went disguised to spy out the British position, and of Kanjunio, the girl who brought back his report, and of Gakuru who sacrificed his life to destroy the machine guns, are all commemorated.

Listen and hear this story
Of the Tumu Tumu Hill!

The Gimma

A Gonga song from the Kafa Highlands of south­ west Ethiopia. During the mid-nineteenth century, according to tradition, the Kafa king asked his people to prepare for war against the Gimma, a powerful sultanate on their northern borders. The people refused to fight.

The Warrior’s Homecoming

An Akan poem from Ghana, sung by women in praise of the returning warrior. The camel blanket and the sandals on which Agyei is described as treading are metaphors for the men who are carrying him in triumph on their shoulders.

He is coming, he is coming,
Treading along on camel blanket in triumph.


Three extracts from the long Zulu Praise-Poem about Shaka, the Zulu king. Shaka succeeded Dingiswayo as head of the Zulu clan in 1818: by the time of his assassination by Dingane in 1828, he had become King of the Zulu nation.


A Tswana Praise-Poem from Botswana, chanted in praise of Seepapitso, chief of the Ngwaketse people 1910-16. Seepapitso’s main achievement was to improve local water supplies by building dams and sinking boreholes. He is also remembered for his defeat of a party of Boers who in 1914 invaded his territory in an attempt to cross into Namibia. The invading Boers were rounded up by Seepapitso and driven back to the Transvaal. These two reasons for remembering him supply the basic argument of the Praise-Poem.

Hey there, men of the Buffalo-thorn,
Do you still argue with me?

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African Poems