Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Intertextuality Shapes the Poetry of Xhosa poets/Intertekstualiteit Vorm Die Poesie Van Xhosadigters

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Intertextuality Shapes the Poetry of Xhosa poets/Intertekstualiteit Vorm Die Poesie Van Xhosadigters

Article excerpt


Praises among the amaXhosa today are not only performed at traditional gatherings. These praises are also performed in many places such as schools, churches and funerals. The question is whether the praises performed in other places rather than traditional gatherings still possess the characteristics of traditional praises. In many praises Xhosa poets draw terminology from Biblical texts. This strategy can be seen as an attempt to break the boundaries between Christianity and Xhosa poetry.

Having said that, the aim of this article is to uncover the interplay between Xhosa traditional poems and Christianity. To do that, this article discusses the interplay between Christianity, elegy, health and social issues, It also discusses new trends of intertextuality in Xhosa poetry. The intertextual theory insists that a text cannot exist as a hermetic or self-sufficient whole and does not function as a closed system. Still and Worton (1991:1) believe that the writer is a reader of the text before she/he is a creator of texts and therefore the work of art is inevitably alive with references, quotations and influences of every kind.


Lofprysing by die amaXhosa kom vandag nie slegs tydens tradisionele byeenkomste voor nie. Hierdie Iofprysings word ook op vele ander plekke gehoor, soos by skole, kerke en begrafnisse. Die vraag is of Iofprysings wat by ander geleenthede as tradisionele byeenkomste uitgevoer word, nog steeds die eienskappe van die tradisionele weergawe besit. In baie Iofprysings ontleen Xhosadigters terminologie uit Bybelse tekste. Hierdie strategie kan beskou word as 'n poging om die grense tussen crie Christendom en Xhosapoesie te deurbreek. Die doel van hierdie artikel, in die lig van die voorafgaande, is dus om die wisselwerking tussen tradisionele Xhosagedigte en crie Christelike tematiek bloot te Ie.

Met hierdie doel voor oe word die interaksie tussen die Christendom, elegie, gesondheid en sosiale kwessies ondersoek. Nuwe tendense ten opsigte van intertekstuafiteit in Xhosapoesie word ook bespreek. Intertekstuele teorie Ie die klem daarop dat 'n teks nie as 'n hermetiese of selfgenoegsame geheel kan bestaan of as 'n geslote sisteem kan funksioneer nie. Still en Worton (1991:1) aanvaar dat die skrywer 'n leser van die teks is alvorens hy/sy 'n skepper van tekste is. Die kunswerk is dus deurtrek met verwysings, aanhalings en allerlei invloede.

1. Introduction

The amaXhosa action of ukubonga (to praise) is seminal to Xhosa folklore. Leading folklorist Jeff Opland (1998:5) is of the opinion that Xhosa oral poetry is a living organism reflecting the aspirations of a people or nation. This poetry shows evidence of adapting to new social circumstances brought about by urbanisation, literacy and assimilation. This flows Iogically from the fact that performed poems among the amaXhosa are predicated on the principle of improvisation, constant re-creation and reformulation. Added to this is that poets adapt the subject of the imbongi tradition from predominantly focusing on personalities, preferably royal ones, to focusing their attention on commoners, processes or objects of the historical divide between tradition and modernity (Masilela, 1981:1). It also needs to be pointed out that the phrase Xhosa poetry in this article refers to both oral and written Xhosa praise poems.

Kaschula (2000:19) avers that, as far as the contemporary sociopolitical context is concerned, griots and imbongi, be they women or men, are essentially influenced by, and attracted to the power which emanates, for example, from politics, religion, education and cultural events. To support this notion, Manyaka (2000:260-261) avers that the duty of a poet is to be the spokesperson of the community in which he/she lives. The spokesperson of the society convinces the community to see and view things the way he/she sees them. For example, according to Manyaka (2000) Thobeng's poetry illustrates the disagreement of the poet with the way people of Gaborone behave in society. …

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