Improvised by the imbongi Nelson Title Mabunu at Umtata, Transkei, December 17 1970, in the course of a long poem in praise of Chief George Matanzima, co-leader of the illegal Transkei Bantustan. Mabuno was Matanzima’s official imbongi. He was a bitter enemy of the Xhosa poet Melikhaya Mbutuma, who was imbongi to the Thembu paramount chief Sabata Dalindyebo. Mbutuma’s six poems attacking Matanzima can be found elsewhere on this site (see part one, part two, part three, part four, part five and part six).
Jeff Opland was one of the first white South Africa academics to take a scholarly interest in Xhosa poetry. However, his research was conducted at the height of the apartheid regime. Even at the court of Matanzima, one of the main African collaborators with apartheid, his motives could be questioned – as in this amusing extract.
What do you want me to say, child of Opland?
What do you want me to say, fair-skinned one?..