African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Zulu (Page 2 of 2)

The Pass Laws

Three Zulu songs from Johannesburg about the notorious Pass Laws of the Apartheid era. All Africans were required to carry a special pass, permitting them to be in the city.


Take a visit to Johannesburg:
You will see big crowds…

From Isaiah Shembe’s Hymnbook

Three Zulu hymns. Isaiah Shembe, the founder and leader of the Zulu Church which bears his name, wrote many hymns. In them, Zulu and Christian traditions are united to express the aspirations of an exploited people.

I shouted day and night:
Why did you not hear me?

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!

Women’s Self-Praises

Two Zulu women’s Praise-Poems. In Zulu society, women often compose their own praises which are performed whenever groups of women are together with no men present. The Praise­-Poems are descriptions of a woman’s personality and achievements, though they are often used to express complaints.


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 Zulu Praise-Poem, in praise of Ndaba, Shaka’s great-grandfather and the first Zulu king.

Ndaba, son of Sonani, they say ‘What wrong did he do?’
Since the people are living with their herds

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African Poems