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Children's Literature in Southern Africa

isiZulu Imilolozelo

isiZulu imilolozelo (lullabies) and izilandelo (game songs) cover a range of topics and themes including nature, games, food and household objects. They can be educational, for entertainment or teach morals, history or traditions. In Ubhedu, their 1993 book of Zulu folklore Gule, Maphumulo and Thwala (1993:51) share their definition of umlolozelo:

Umlolozelo uyinkondlo ethile yokudlalisa nokuthunduzela umntwana. Uhleleka njengenkondlo noma isizosha, kepha ulandwa ngezwi elisamculo . . . usangomana yokukhulisa abantwana . . . Umlolozelo uyinto eyakhiwe futhi eyaqanjwa abaqambi bakudala. Umlolozelo ungomunye wemidlalo yesiNguni … wakha ubudlelwano phakathi kwengane nonina.

(A lullaby is a poem that is used to entertain a child or to induce a child to sleep; its structure is that of a poem, but it is voiced in a form of a song … A lullaby is like a song that is used in the upbringing of children. It is something that originates from people of long ago. Umlolozelo is one of the games of the Nguni people… it builds a relationship between mother and child.)

The following is a game song about birds:

Yaqhamuka inyoni
Yandizela phezulu
Yabhula izimpiko
Bhengu bhengu yandiza
Yandizela phezulu
Kunyonini lokhuya
Okundizela phezulu?
Kufana noheshane
Inyon’ edl’ izinkukhu.
Izinkukhu zonkana
Zisala ziphithiza
Zizihlom’ ezingcweni
Selokhu zazingelwa
Amakhosi oheshane
Zakubon’ okukhulu
Zakubeleth’ emhlane.

(A bird appeared
It flew high in the sky
It flapped its wings
Flap flap it flew
It flew up in the sky
What kind of bird is that
That is flying up in the sky?
It looks like a hawk
A bird that eats chickens
All the chickens
Scurry about
And go blindly into fenced barriers
Since they have been hunted
By hawks the kings
They had a terrible experience
Which burdens them.)

The content of this next poem indicates that it is a game that is played by young boys only:

We bafana iyo!
Aph’ amathole iyo?
Akonina iyo
Azodlani iyo?
Umgqushumba iyo!

(Hey, boys, iyo!
Where are the calves, iyo?
They are at their mother‟s, iyo
What will they eat, iyo?
A mixture of mashed food, iyo.)

We believe that keeping our oral traditions, stories and culture alive are national imperatives and work to make learning and living African languages a joyous and proud experience for young people. What are some of your favourite imilolozelo, izilandelo or folktales? Email them to bontle@book.co.za or share them on our Facebook page and we'll publish them right here on puku.co.za for a new generation to enjoy!

References:

  • Gule, Z.W., Maphumulo, A. M. & Thwala, J.J. 1993. UBhedu. Johannesburg: Lexicon Publishers.
  • Ntuli, C.D. 2011. "From Oral Performance to Picture Books: A Perspective on Zulu Children's Literature" Available from: UNISA Institutional Repository. [14 April 2013]