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Mkiva, Zolani (South Africa)  
Zolani Mkiva

ZOLANI MKIVA is one of the youngest practitioners of one of the oldest oral traditions in South Africa: the Imbongi, or Praise Poet.

Hailing from Idutywa in the Transkei area of the Eastern Cape, Zolani rose to prominence in 1990 when, barely months after becoming a fully-fledged Imbongi, the schoolboy was called upon to praise the recently released Nelson Mandela at his Welcome Home Rally in the Transkei.

1991 saw Zolani complete his matriculation, and during the same year, consolidated his role as an Imbongi through extensive work at community functions. Zolani was then appointed Imbongi Yesizwe, or "Poet to the Nation".

The role of an Imbongi is a responsible one in African society, for it involves articulating the feelings of the community, and encapsulating these sentiments in concise poetic phrases. Not only does the Imbongi praise, but must also ponder, even offer criticism.

Genre: traditional / indigenous, spoken word, mbaqanga

Especially at this time of political transition and nation building in South Africa, Zolani felt the need to broaden his knowledge and analytical tools, and decided to pursue studies in Social Science at the University of the Western Cape. His studies included the oral traditions, and in this way, he became a dual practioner and student of iImbongi.

While completing his degree, Zolani remained active in a host of cultural matters. Significantly, in 1994 he participated in numerous performances throughout South Africa, including the Inauguration of President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, in Pretoria on 10 May, where he rendered two items.

On the educational front, Zolani has been involved in a part time basis, for example, assisting with programmes at the Community Arts Project as a mentor, and serving as a guest lecturer at both University of Western Cape and University of Stellenbosch. In addition, there have been numerous attendances at schools, and assistance with the family business in Idutywa, Transkei.

Zolani Mkiva participates in events either as an Imbongi, or alternatively as a Master of Ceremonies. Unlike other performers, he will ordinarily have to give careful consideration before participating in an event, and frequently research the topic at hand, maybe prepare a specific framework for a rendition. Like a jazz musician, the lines of the Imbongi are never fixed - they are improvised, at times melodic, at times melancholy. And not always guaranteed to please with tame platitudes - A Lion must ROAR!

Steve Gordon March 1996.

Contact Details:

visit the website
mail to : Zolani Mkiva
Tel: ++27 83 2672525 (mobile)
Fax: ++27 11 433 9615

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