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The Nation’s Bounty - The Xhosa Poetry of Nontsizi Mgqwetho

The Nation’s Bounty - The Xhosa Poetry of Nontsizi Mgqwetho

As cultural and literary documents, her poems resonate with both historical and contemporary significance
Opland, Jeff (ed.)
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Editor: Jeff Opland
Publisher: Witwatersrand University Press
Series: African Treasury Contributors
Johannesburg, 2007
ISBN: 9781868144518
Paperback, 15x21 cm, 256 pages


Description:

"The Nation's Bounty" is the first of a number of new titles planned for release in the "African Treasury" series, a premier collection of texts by South Africa's pioneers of African literature and written in indigenous languages.

First published by Wits University Press in the 1940s, the series provided a voice for the voiceless and celebrated African culture, history and heritage. It continues to make a contribution by supporting current efforts to empower and develop the status of African languages in South Africa."The Nations' Bounty" contains the original poems alongside English translations by Jeff Opland.

For nearly a decade Nontsizi Mgqwetho contributed poetry to a Johannesburg newspaper, "Umteteli wa Bantu", the first and only female poet to produce a substantial body of work in Xhosa. Apart from what is revealed in these writings, very little is known about her life.

She explodes on the scene with her swaggering, urgent, confrontational woman's poetry on 23 October 1920, sends poems to the newspaper regularly throughout the three years from 1924 to 1926, withdraws for two years until two final poems appear in December 1928 and January 1929, then disappears into the shrouding silence she first burst from.

Nothing more is heard from her, but the poetry she left immediately claims for her the status of one of the greatest literary artists ever to write in Xhosa, an anguished voice of an urban woman confronting male dominance, ineffective leadership, black apathy, white malice and indifference, economic exploitation and a history of nineteenth-century territorial and cultural dispossession.


Reviews:

From the Introduction by Isabel Hofmeyr:
The volume is indeed a bounty, full of goodness, literary worth and excellence. As both poetic creation and translation, the collection is an act of generosity, a gift to the nation and a wonderful reward for the reader. As cultural and literary documents, the poems resonate with both historical and contemporary significance.


About the editor:

Jeff Opland is a Research Associate in the Department of Africa, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a Research Fellow in the Department of African Languages, University of South Africa.


Example:

Chizama the poet

Sir, Editor of our Umtetell,
long life to you,
grandson of heroes who fell at Hoho.
Mercy! Go, Gatyeni,
we'll follow you.

Hom! Wait a minute!
Those heroes fell for their country,
died at the side of Sandile their king.
Hom bo!
We'll follow you:
we're loyal to the royal prince
who rumbles down Xesi's banks,
flits over Vece, the rock-strewn Xesi,
shade for all, however many."
I'm citing Sandile's praises.

Go and we'll follow you:
no traitor came
from your house.

Go and we'll follow you:
no female poet
came from our house:
the poet who rouses the court
and censures the king's always male.

Go and we'll follow you!
We first encountered these female poets
here in this land of thugs and booze.

Go and we'll follow you,
but how do we know
a traitor's crime can't be cloaked?

Go and we'll follow you:
even a fool's sure to know
a starveling can't guide
or ever lead a nation.

Go and we'll follow you!
We danced at your birth, lord of men!
Umteteli's bread for our table:
long may it last.
Good on you,
lord of men!

Go and we'll follow you.
You too, broad-breasted woman:
your robe rattled Buxton
and prison walls tumbled.

Go and we'll follow you,
woman who protested passes;
confronted by protests
the white man quailed,
and kept his pistol holstered.

Go and we'll follow you,
woman whose words at Nancefield
fired the Commission
to dream her dreams.

Go and we'll follow you,
woman who dogged the Commission
down to Elephant Bay,
I swear by Lady.

Go and we'll follow you.
You too, Cethe, Nkombisa's child.
Chizama, hold tight now,
your people are watching you.

Go and we'll follow you,
Rhadebe, Mbambisa's son,
master stick-fighter;
don't let yapping curs
distract you from the giant hound.

Go and we'll follow you,
son of Maxeke:
we've been bought off with low-grade chuck,
meat slopped up in the compounds.

Go and we'll follow you:
this lot would prefer to face
next year without competition.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Fat chance!

Hom! Wait a minute! The ford holds threats!
That's it, Editor. Mercy!
You'll hear from me again.

God bless Africa.

CHIZAMA,
Crown Mines.

Imbongi u Chizama

Nkosi, mhleli wo Mteteli wetu,
Wanga ungapila u bom obude,
Mzukulwana wamadoda afela kwaHoho
Taru, Gatyeni hamba,
Sokulandela.
Hom zajika,
Amadoda afela izwe lawo,
Afa kunye ne Nkosi yawo u Sandile
Hom bo'
Tina sokulandela, kuba singabantwa
na bo Gaga u Gago luhamba lu
Gongqoza lukwezi Xesi u Ndanda
Ko Vece u Xesi Magqagala
Umtunzi wa bantu bonke bengaka
Nje nditsho ku Sandile mna.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Kuba akuzange kupume ntamnani
Kowenu.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Kuba tina simadoda nje asizange
Siyibone kowetu imbongikazi,
Yenkazana kuba imbongi inyuka
Nenkundla ituke inkosi.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Nezi mbongikazi Tina sizibona
Apa kweli lo laita ne bhekile.

Hamba Sokulandela,
Asazi tina nokuba ngaba isono
Sontamnani saxolelwana?
Hamba sokulandela,
Kuba ne sidenge (a fool) siyazi
Ukuba umntu olambileyo akangeze
Akokele acebise mzi.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Tshotsho uzalwe Nkosibantu,
Sanga eso sonka asingepeli kuba
Site sakuvela kwapuma into
Eyimyoli good on you Nkosi
Bantu.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Nawe mazi esifuba sikulu eyati
Gqi nomnweba ku Buxton,
Kwavuleka intolongo.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Mazi eyapuma izinto nge pass
Kwapuma izinto kwa tamb'u,
Mlungu exwayi kati ngabula
Nojekwa.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Mazi eyateta e Nancefield yatsho
Amadoda e Komishoni apupa
Kakubona.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Mazi eyalandela amadoda
E Komishoni kwada kwase Bhai
Indlovu ndifungu Ledi.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Nawe Cete nto ka Nkombisa,
Chizama bamb'i ntambo ama
Kowenu akugxeleshile kunje.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Nto ka Mbambisa Radebe Tina

Siyakwazi nase zintongeni
Ungotuswa zi ngqeqe jonga
Ukupuma kwe nkulu inja.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Mfo ka Maxeke kuba tina
Kaloku satengwa ngo duladula
Inyama ye Komponi.
Hamba Sokulandela,
Kuba lempi ifuna ukubona
Yodwa unyaka ozayo Ho! Ho!
Ho! Sakubona Fish.
Hom Mazijike, izibuko libi,
Ndoka ndime Mhleli taru ndobuye
Ndivele.
Nkosi Sikele Africa.

CHIZAMA,
Crown Mines.


Content:

Foreword by Isabel Hofmeyr
Acknowledgements
Introduction
1 Imbongi u Chizama
Chizama the poet
2 Imbongikazi Nontsizi u Chizama
Nontsizi Chizama, the woman poet
3 [Uqekeko lwe Congress]
[The split within Congress]
4 Imbongikazi No "Abantu-Batho"
The woman poet and Abantu-Batho
5 Iziko le Nyembezi
The vale of tears
6 Imbongi ye Zibuko
The poet of the ford
7 Umpanga ka Mama
Mama's death
8 Ingxoxo yo Mginwa ku Magqoboka!
A Red debates with Christians
9 Unyikimo Lomhlaba-E-Rautini
Johannesburg earthquake
10 Maibuye! I Afrika! Awu!
Come back, Africa! Awu!
11 Yacombuluka! Inamba u 1923 ebisoloko ifukamele ukunduluka
A long lying-in, then the python uncoils and leaves! (1923)
12 Ufikile! Udubulesendlwini bac'ol'i nto emnyango! Kuse beyifanisa (New Year)
It's here! Find-at-the-Door-What-you-Shot-from-Inside and only later identified! (New Year)
13 Pulapulani! Makowetu
Listen, compatriots!
14 Abaprofeti benyaniso-nabo-buxoki
Prophets false and true
15 Zatsha! Inkomo Nomazakuzaku!
Something's coming!
16 Induli ka Xakeka!-Enyukwa ngu Ntu!!
The hill Difficulty the black man scales
17 Umanyano! Basebenzi Abantsundu!!
Unity, black workers!
18 Umpanga! ka Rev BS Mazwi
The loss of Rev BS Mazwi
19 Vumisani! kwi Nyange Lemihla!!
Consult the ancient sage!
20 Ingwe Idla Ngamabala!!
Spots feed the leopard
21 I Afrika ihleli Ayiyangandawo!!
Africa stayed! She's nowhere else!!
22 Ikona na Intaba Oyaziyo? Kwezi Zimiyo Eyaka Yafuduka?
Show me the mountain that packed up and left
23 Isimbonono Saba Zali!!
Lament of the parents
24 Zipina Inkokeli Ezinje ngo Daniel?
Where are leaders like Daniel?
25 Ifikile! Ingqongqo Yomnqamlezo!! (Good Friday)
He's here! The Drum of the Cross!! (Good Friday)
26 Sicope Emasebeni Emiti Njengentaka!!
We perch like birds on twigs
27 Iziko Lenyembezi!!
The vale of tears
28 Sahluke Pina Tina ku Kayin?
How do we differ from Cain?
29 Izibuko!!
A ford!
30 Ukutula! Ikwakukuvuma!!
Silence implies consent
31 Umanyano! Nomfela ndawonye!!
Prayer Union and Die-As-One
32 Kuguzulwa Okumkani! Kumiswe Okumkani!!
The king is dead! Long live the king!
33 Isizwe! Esingavaniyo! Nesingavelaniyo! Siyadwatywa Zezinye!!
Strangers strip a squabbling nation
34 Utywala Sisiqu Sempundulu!
Liquor's the lightning-bird itself
35 Siyayibinza! I Afrika!!
We're stabbing Africa!
36 Imimiselo ye Zizwe! Iwugqwetile Lomhlaba ka Palo!
Foreign laws have upended this land of Phalo!
37 Izililo! Ze Afrika!!
Africa's wailings
38 Emva! Kumasiko Andulo!!
Back to age-old ways!
39 Abafazi! Bomtandazo!! Pulapula!!!
Women of the Prayer Unions Listen!
40 Saxulutywa! Ngamatye Omsebenzi!!
Our efforts stone us!
41 Mene! Mene! Tekele! Ufarsin!!
Mene! Mene! Tekel! Parsin!!
42 "Masizake"!! Yin' nale!!!
What's this? Let's build for each other!
43 "Ub'inqo"! We-Afrika!!
Africa's petticoat
44 Umfula! Wosizi!!
The stream of despair
45 Ziyazaliseka - Ngoku! Izihlabo ko Ntsundu!! Pulapula!!!
The prophecies about blacks have now come to pass! Listen!
46 Ingonyama! Yobumnyama Isagquma!!
The lion of blackness still roars
47 Amaqaba! Pulapula
Reds! Listen
48 Singu-Ndabamlonyeni!
We're the topic of talk
49 Lunguza! Ku-ya-sa
Take a look, dawn's breaking
50 Sesanina? Esisimb'onono?
What's this lament?
51 Lityumtyum! E-Afrika!! Pulapula!!!
Something's rotten in Africa Listen!
52 Inyikima e Rautini! Gqala esase Sodom!!
Joburg earthquake: remember Sodom
53 Wabutwana-Afrika? Njengezitungu-Zesanda?
Are you bundled for threshing, Africa?
54 Yintsomi yo Nomeva!!
The tale of the wasps
55 Ukuba Umntu! Akakwazi!! Ukuyongamela Eyake-lndlu!!!
Angatinina Ukupata Isizwe Sika Tixo?
If a man can't rule his own house, how would he manage
God's nation?
56 Hosanna!! Melkizedek!!! (Xmas)
Hosanna! Melchizedek!! (Xmas)
57 Zemk' Inkomo Zetafa! Zeza Nenkungu!!
They are stealing our cattle on misty plains!
58 Yaqengqelekana Iminyaka Umi Ndaweninye?
Will the years roll by while you mark time?
59 Watsha Umzi! Lupawu Luka Kayini!! (Passport)
The mark of Cain (the pass) enflames the land
60 Ubusuku-Bunzulu! Ekuzeni-Kokusa!!
The night is deep before the dawn
61 Wazinyatela na? Intombi Zezwe Lako Zibe Ngamakoboka?
Are you trampling your nation's girls to enslave them?
62 Lipina Iqula Lamanzi e Afrika?
Where's a well in Africa?
63 Tabata! Naso Isitshixo!! Esikinxe Izwe Lako!!!
There's the key to the lock on your land: take it!
64 Vumani! Siyavuma!!
"Agree!" "Agreed!!"
65 Zapela Inkomo! Luqaulo Lwemitshato!!
Cattle are lost in divorce
66 Mazibhange! Izikumbuzo Ezingenalo u Manyano
Stop the divisive commemorations
67 Wapulwana Afrika Njengesitya Esingananziweyo?
Africa, are you trashed like a worthless plate?
68 Siyavuma!!
Agreed!
69 Ngubani Oti Ukuvumisa Akufuneki?
Who said there's no need of divination?
70 Tsheca-Lomgibe!!
Snap this snare
71 Ukuxoka! Pulapula!!
Gossip! Listen!!
72 Nantso-Igushakazi! Pantsi Kwabaguguli!! (Good Friday)
Behold the lamb set for shearing (Good Friday)
73 Qengqal-Elolitye!! (Easter)
Roll back the stone! (Easter)
74 Tixo Warn! Tixo Warn! Undishiyelanina?
My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?
75 Hambani! Niyekuzenza Abafundi Zonke Intlanga!!
Go forth and teach all nations
76 Siyakuzizekela Ninina Uzuko?
When will we gain ourselves glory?
77 Hosanna! Qbi Elino Mnqwazi Ngapezulu!! (Xmas)
Hosanna, Lake with a bonnet on top! (Xmas)
78 Zemk' Inkomo Zetafa!! 1925
On the plains they're stealing our cattle! 1925
79 Yaqengqelekana Yonke Iminyaka Umi ndaweninye? (1926)
Will the years all roll by while you mark time? (1926)
80 Ilizwe-Liyakutungwa-Njengengubo!!
The country will be patched like clothing!!
81 Umanyano! Mihlamb' Eyalanayo!!
Unity, diverse sheep!!
82 Nalo Igazi! Lidyob' Umzimba Wake!! (Good Friday)
Look at his blood-flecked body (Good Friday)
83 Vuyani! Uxolile u Tixo Wezulu! (Easter)
Agree! God in heaven's reconciled!! (Easter)
84 Umona! Pulapula!!
Envy! Listen!!
85 Simi pina?
Where do we stand?
86 Isizwe Esingena Tixo Siyatshabalala
A godless nation perishes
87 U-Yehova Uyasivana?
Does Jehovah hear us?
88 Namhla Izwi Lake Lise Zaqwitini!! (Usuku loku Nyukela)
Today he roars in a whirlwind! (Ascension Day)
89 Isimbonono se Afrika!!
Africa's lament!!
90 Utando!!
Love!!
91 Umanyano Nomfela Ndawonye!
Prayer Union and Die-As-One
92 Yeyapina Lemfundiso?
Where does this teaching come from?
93 Siyayikumbula Njena Indlala?
Do we remember the famine?
94 Uvelwano! Pulapula!!
Sympathy! Listen!!
95 Yacombuluka Inamba Ebisoloke Ifukamele Ukunduluka (Abefundisi)
A long lying-in, then the python uncoils and leaves (Ministers)
96 Umonde!!
Patience
97 Yayisenzelwa Ntonina i Bhaibhile?
Why was the bible created?
98 Azi Le Afrika Iyakuze Ibuye na?
Will this Africa ever come back?
99 Vumani! Siyavuma!!
"Agree!" "Agreed!!"
100 Lomzi Wakona na Sawubizana?
Did we invite this nation of theirs?
101 Sabelani Niyabizwa Balindi
Watchmen, respond: you're summoned!!
102 Gqumani Zilwandle! Gcobani Mihlaba! (Xmas)
Roar, oceans! Frolic, continents!! (Xmas)
103 Zemk'Inkomo Zetafa-Vula Ndingene!
On the plains they're stealing our cattle!

Notes
Bibliography