African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Bornu

Song of the Zakkama to the Sultan of Borno

An extract from a Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria (c.f., The Sultan of Bornu, Queen Gumsu, The Yerima Mohammadu, In Praise of Yerima Aji, and The Song Sung to Kaigama Anterashi, son of Lima). The Sultan had three official praise singers, who walked beside him procession, or stood before him in audience. Their titles, in order of precedence, were Ngijima, Babuma and Zakkama. The praises are addressed by the Zakkama to Sultan Aman Alimi, who reigned 1793-1810.

You, son of Gumsu, Gumsu Amina, daughter of Talba, you Ibrahim,
Have attained to your father’s place among the great…

The Song Sung to Kaigama Anterashi, son of Lima

A Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria (see also The Sultan of Bornu, Queen Gumsu, The Yerima Mohammadu, and In Praise of Yerima Aji). Kaigama was the title of the Sultan’s chief slave, commander in chief of the army and responsible for the defence and general administration of the southern part of the Bornu kingdom.

Kaigama Anterashi,
Star of the morning…

Queen Gumsu

An extract from a Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria (see also The Sultan of Bornu). The Gumsu was the chief wife of the king of Bornu, and the Gumsu praised in this poem was the wife of Sultan Arri Umarmi, 1645-85.

Queen Gumsu, owner of Maradi town, never looks behind her:
Owner of the city of Yam and the land of Yemen…

In Praise of Yerima Aji

A Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria (see also The Sultan of Bornu, The Yerima Mohammadu). The Yerima was an official responsible for the defence and general administration of the northern part of the Bornu kingdom, and was invariably the grandson of a Sultan.

Hi! Young lady! Be careful young lady!
When his neighbour is sweeping out his compound, the Yerima…

The Yerima Mohammadu

An extract from a Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient Bornu kingdom of northern Nigeria (see also The Sultan of Bornu). the Yerima was an official responsible for the defence and general administration of the northern part of the Bornu kingdom and was invariably the grandson of a Sultan.

This Praise-Poem is said to refer to the Yerima who held office during the reign of Sultan Arri Umarmi, 1645-85, though the joke about reading (line 14) must date from a later time.

The Yerima is like a prancing horse whose legs are not hobbled,
Like a camel which wanders where it will without a halter…

The Sultan of Bornu

The Sultan of Bornu, A Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria. The poem, which was recorded in 1926, describes an individual king, Sultan Momadu Ajimi, who reigned in 1737-51. But it is also a statement of what an ideal king should be like, providing the Sultan with a pattern that the official Praise-Singer implies he should follow.

African Poems