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The Xhosa name for the traditional praise songs (or praise poetry) performed /sung by the imbongi (praise poet, plural: izimbongi) of a particular clan or leader. The poem is broken up into short phrases which may be uttered in a single breath. There is a marked emphasis of the penultimate syllable of each word, with a pause giving added emphasis to the penultimate syllable of each line. There is often elision of final vowels. This gives these poems a stately rythm and dramatic power. Dramatic and forceful imagery, with allusions to people and events in the past are important characteristics of the form. Puns are not infrequent. The language is often intensely idiomatic and therefore very difficult to translate. In 1994 Zolani Mkhiva was formally inaugurated as South Africa’s imbongi yeSizwe [‘people’s poet”], a title previously and informally claimed by the controversial “people’s poet” and singer Mzwakhe Mbuli, and delivered an izibongo to the new state and another to the new President, Nelson Mandela. (See also lithoko) (See Loren Kruger, 1999; Russel Kashula, 1993.)


A term utilized by H.I.E. Dhlomo to describe the dramatic form and function of the izibongo in contemporary twentieth century South African theatre. ** (Kruger, 1999)

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