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By - Thando

On Poetry: Spotlight on Mazisi Kunene

Mazisi Kunene is arguably the greatest African poet. His two great epics Emperor Shaka the Great (1979) and Anthem of the Decades (1981) remain unparalled in African literary history.

Mazisi Kunene
(Photo by Poklekowski/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Kunene’s poetry is deeply rooted in the oral traditions and indigenous literature of the Nguni and Sotho speakers of southern Africa. This is nowhere more evident than in Pipe Dreams, compiled by Ntongela Masilela and translated into English by Vusi Mchunu.

This beautiful, emotional collection is based on Kunene’s original work Igudu LikaSomcabeko (Somcabeko’s Smoking Pipe).
Pipe Dreams is perfect for readers of both isiZulu and English, as each Zulu poem is preceded by the English translation.

This desirable collection is available from David Krut Bookstores, R200

Cover: Pipe Dreams; Mazisi Kunene's Zulu Poems transl. by Vusi Mchunu
Pipe Dreams; Mazisi Kunene’s Zulu Poems transl. by Vusi Mchunu

Mazisi Kunene was exiled from South Africa in 1959. He served as the ANC representative in London from 1962 to 1969. In 1973 he took up a post at the University of California, Los Angeles where he taught for 19 years, eventually becoming Professor of African Languages and Literature. He held this post he held ntil his return to South Africa in 1992. In 1993 UNESCO named him Africa’s Poet Laureate and in 2005 he was named South Africa’s Poet Laureate.

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