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LISTEN, COMPATRIOTS! (poem) - Nontsizi Mgqwetho - South Africa - Poetry International

 
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Pulapulani! Makowetu
Ndiyigxotile i Kresmesi, no Nyaka Omdala kwano Nibidyala ngezibongo. Ndizaku zibonga mna ke ngoku ndandule ke kwakona ukuqala into entsha.

Camaguni!

Taru! Nontsizi dumezweni ngentsholo
Nto ezibongo ziyintlaninge yezwe
Indlovu ke ayisindwa ngumboko wayo
Awu! Taru! Sikukukazi piko e Afrika.

Esikusela amatole aze engemki
Emke nezinye intaka eziwadlayo
Uyaziwa lilizwe nambakazi yezulu
Enqenwe nazi Mbongi zada zaxelelana.

Wugqwetele Mgqwetto lomhlaba ka Palo
Beta izizwe ngesitunzi zidangale
Uliramncwa akuvelwa ngasemva
Nabakwaziyo babeta besotuka.

Taru! Mdakakazi omabalaziziba
Ovumba linuka okwenyoka yomlambo
Camagu! Nawe Ndlovu edla Pezulu
Uzibhalile noko Inkomo zakwa Mgqwetto.

Taru! Nontsizi bulembu e Afrika
Obuyepuzela emazantsi namaza
Wak’ubeka ngonyawo weva ubuhlungu
Wahiliza ngomlomo wawiselwa pantsi.

Taru! Nontsizi bulembu e Afrika
Ozihluba izibongo ekuhleni
Zitsho nentaba zelizwe zikangelane
Xa wapuka imbambo macala omabini.

Taru! Mdakakazi ngqele ese Lundini
Enje ngayo Imibete yase Herimone
Ndakhubeka ndibheka emlungwini
Awu! Ndeva sendibanjwa ngamadindala.

Taru Mbongikazi Flamingo ka Vaaibom
Esunduza inyawo xa isukayo
Esunduza inyawo xa ihlalayo
Zipume izilo zonke zigcakamele.

Taru! Dadakazi lendada ze Afrika
Ub’hib’hinxa lwentombi esinqe sibi
Awu! Nontsizi bulembu e Afrika
Akusoze wende nezinto zigoso.

Taru! Mbongikazi piko le Afrika
Sudukani bo arha ndabonelelwa
Taru! Somikazi lomti wekiwane
Ubonga noko side sipel’ isoya.

Taru! Nontsizi bulembu e Afrika
Izishumane mazambat’ amabhayi
Kuba ayaziwa Iminyanya yakowenu
Akungetshati ungabhinqi zik’ak’a

Zipi Intombi zenu Izwi liyintoni
Sigqibe lomhlaba sifuna ukwenda
Salahla amak’azi salahla amakaya
Namhla sizizigudu kwa namabhungela.

Imfundo yintoni bapi onyana benu
Bagqibe lamazwe befun’ inikisi
Yona nto ifunwa zintaka inkuku
Kusa ziqondele kuhlwe zingay’ boni

Taru! Nontsizi ntsasa enemizila
Egqibe izinga zonke iprofetesha
Awu! Taru! Sanusekazi se zibongo
Nalo neramncwa liwabhul’ amaphiko.

Taru! “Chizama!” Odla inyama rwada
Ayaziwa neminyanya yakowenu
Mazibuye ke! Indlovu zidle ekaya
Zingalala ezindle zilahlekile.

Taru! Nontsizi intombi ka Sandile
Mntana wenkosi kwinkosi zakwa Ngqika
Kubonga amakosi not amabhungexe
Watshiswa zinduku kumataf’ akwa Ngqika.

Awu! Taru! Nontsizi bulembu e Afrika
Ntokazi etsho ngentlombe ezimnandi
Zitsho zidume nendonga ze Afrika
Arha hai abhitye onke amadodana.

Mhlana wafa Nontsizi losibekela
Hashe lenkumanda loba lilahlekile
Awu! Taru! Nangaye u Ntsikana
Owayegqibe zonke izinga eprofetesha.

Camagu! Sinungunungu Esingcwele
Nantso ke into eyatshiwo ngu Ntsikana
Yobomvana abarola ngamadolo
Beza nobugqi bela ngela Mampondo.

Lalinywa zinqwelo zomlilo elobawo
Abe u Ntu engenandawo yokulima
Canaguni! Mazulu! Camagu Mihlaba
Camagu! Ke Langa! Camagu! Nawe Nyanga.

Nini amagosa awasipeteyo
Yinyusen’ ingxelo iye ko Pezulu
Nisitetelele nide nicokise
Soya pina? Ngwenya enesiziba.

Sitshatshela Esikulu se Afrika
Nanko u Ntu esiza enenyembezi
Vumani! Siyavuma! Kwi Ngqongqo Yomnqamlezo
Siyavuma! Ewe ngenyani! Siyavuma!

Awu! Yatsho Imbabala yolwantinge
Ezivutulula zimise nenkowane.

Gqob’ha empandeni
Nalo izwe loyihlo
Lusisivivinya sayo imishologu.

Watsho Umavelelunguzwa ngabe
Nduku into ekangelwa
Nangumbane kube situkutezi.
                                    Camagu!
Listen, Compatriots!
I sent Christmas, the old year and the new year packing with praise poems. Now I’m going to sing my own praises, and then I’ll pass on to start something fresh.

Peace to you all!

Mercy, Nontsizi, renowned for your chanting,
your poems are the nation’s bounty.
No elephant finds its own trunk clumsy
Awu! Mercy, old hen’s wing in Africa!

Hen screening her chicks
from birds of prey,
the nation knows you, sky-python,
poets sneer but discuss you.

Turn Phalo’s land on its head, Mgqwetho[i]
whack nations and sap their standing.
Wild beast too fierce to take from behind,
those who know tremble in tackling you.

Mercy, dusky pool-tinted woman,
your stench reeks like the river snake.
Peace! Elephant browsing the tops,
you’ve made a household name of Mgqwetho.

Mercy, Nontsizi, African moss
sipping moisture from under the ripples,
you stubbed your toe and felt the pain,
a slip of the tongue and they stomped on you.

Mercy, Nontsizi, African moss,
you strip poetry bare to the bone
and the nation’s mountains swivel 
as you sway from side to side.

Mercy, Dusky, Drakensberg snow
like morning dew on Mount Hermon.
I blundered in going to whites:
Oh I felt the cops’ cuffs on me!

Mercy, woman poet, Vaaibom’s flamingo,
which thrusts its feet forward for take-off,
which thrusts its feet backward to land:
all creatures come out to bask in the sun.

Mercy, duck of the African thickets,
ungainly girl with ill-shaped frame.
Awu! Nontsizi, African moss,
with bow-legs like yours you’ll never marry!

Mercy, woman poet, wing of Africa.
Make way! Ach, I was used.
Mercy, starling perched in a fig tree,
your poems dispense with feminine wiles.

Mercy, Nontsizi, African moss,
let old maids screen their bodies in bodices
for no-one knows your ancestors:
without skin skirts there’ll be no weddings.[ii]

Where are your daughters? What do you say?
“We roamed the countryside searching for marriage,
we turned our backs on home and dowry,
today we’re exploited in exile homes.”[iii]

What’s education? Where are your sons?
They roamed the land in search of niks,[iv]
chickens scratching for scraps,
eager at dawn, at dusk empty-handed.

Mercy, Nontsizi, striped gold-breasted bunting
that piped its prophecies through the thornbrakes;
Awu! Mercy, poetic diviner,
watch out, the wild bird’s flapping its wings.

Mercy, Chizama, who eats her meat raw;
no-one knows your ancestors.[v]
May the browsing elephants make it home:
they’re lost if they sleep in the road.

Mercy, Nontsizi, Sandile’s daughter,
child of the Ngqika paramount.
You were thrashed by kieries on Ngqika plains
for praising chiefs and not commoners.[vi]

Awu! Mercy, Nontsizi, African moss,
woman, the walls of Africa throb
with the sound of your lovely parties:
Ach shame! The young men all wither.

The day of your death will darken, Nontsizi,
the commando’s horse will lose its way.[vii]
Awu! Mercy! And you, Ntsikana,
who piped your prophecies across the thornbrakes.

Peace, Awesome Saint!
Ntsikana mentioned this:
little red people down on their knees,
casting spells right up to Mpondoland.

Fiery tractors tilled the land of our fathers
and the black had no place to plough.
Peace to you, Heavens! Peace to you, Earth!
Peace then, Sun! And peace to you, Moon!

You keep our final accounts,
bear your report to the One on High,
plead our case in elegant terms.
Where can we go, pool-screened Crocodile?

Mighty Champion of Africa,
the black approaches in tears.
“Agree?” “Agreed! By the Drum of the Cross![viii]
Agreed! Yes, in truth, we agree!”

Oh! These are the words of the scabby eland:
mushrooms flourish in the flakes it sheds.

Carry on scooping the cask:
there lies the land of your ancestors,
harassed by evil sprites.

These are the words of the nervous object
of spies armed to the teeth,
who watch her even with lightning.
                                                Peace!

 
 
 
 

Translator's Note: [i] Here (as elsewhere) Mgqwetho’s verbal dexterity is evident as she juxtaposes her name and the verb ukugqwetha, to turn something upside down, to twist or pervert it. Phalo is an ancestor of the Xhosa chiefs; the land of Phalo is Xhosa territory, and by extension the whole country. [ii] Mgqwetho refers to the sophisticated urban women who, in violation of tradition, take lovers and remain unmarried; here she urges these women to return to traditional custom, represented by the skirt smeared with ochre, as distinct from the bodices of white women’s fashion. Dressed traditionally, she says, their ancestors will recognise them and arrange marriages for them. [iii] The image is of “A cow which allows herself to be milked without being first sucked by her calf, or one which has lost her calf and yet allows herself to be milked” living with “One who does not reside at the chief’s village” (the definitions are taken from A. Kropf, A Kafir-English dictionary). [iv] A racy, urban tone is achieved in this poem by the incorporation of a number of English and Afrikaans words. In this line the Afrikaans niks, “nothing,” appears; in line 64 the English not is used; and the Afrikaans term of disregard, ag, figures in lines 38 and 68. [v] Apparently, she is a newcomer to Johannesburg, where people are accordingly unfamiliar with her lineage. [vi] That is, for producing poetry on a national scale (the preserve of the male imbongi, though both men and women produce domestic poetry about clans and acquaintances) you were beaten by men armed with knobbed sticks. Faction fights between males armed with two knobkieries take place on the plains. Sandile the son of Ngqika died in the last frontier conflict in 1879. [vii] Mgqwetho is sufficiently important for the court messenger to be dispatched with news of her death. [viii] The Drum of the Cross, iNgqongqo yomNqamlezo is Jesus. Kropf defines ingqongqo as “A dried bullock-skin used as a drum by the women to accompany dancing; a tall strong person, a giant; a person in authority, with power to command.” It is tempting to translate iNgqongqo as “Lord” here, expounding the metaphor of the authoritative drumbeat, suggesting that Jesus wills his crucifixion, that he is in command of the cross, but that would remove Nontsizi’s Africanisation and feminisation of Jesus. Ingqongqo bears its literal meaning of “drum” when Jehovah is referred to as the beater of Sandile’s drum, Mbeti wengqongqo kaSandile, the rhythm of Sandile’s reign, in other poems, so I have left the slightly obscure metaphor here. Jesus is the throbbing drumbeat on the cross laid down by women for all to dance to.