The poetry of David Livingstone Phakamile Yali-Manisi

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

Yali-Manisi, a Xhosa writer, performs and writes traditional praise poetry (izibongo) and modern poems (isihobe) and can, therefore, be regarded as a bard because he also performs his poetry. One can safely place him in the interphase as he combines performance and writing. The influence of oral poems and other oral genres can be perceived in his works as some of his works are a product of performances which were recorded, transcribed and translated into English. The dissertation, among other things, examines the way in which Yali-Manisi's work has been influenced by such manipulations. In this study we examine lzibongo Zeenkosi ZamaXhosa, lmfazwe kaMianjeni, Yaphum'igqina and other individually recorded poems. His poetry is characterised by an interaction between tradition and innovation. The impact of traditional poetic canon on the poet, the way of exploiting traditional devices are the most outstanding characteristics concerning his poetry. His optimistic disposition towards the future of the South African political situation leaves one with the impression that he envisages an end to the Black-White political dichotomy. Yali-Manisi manipulates literary forms to articulate specific socio-political and cultural attitudes which are dominant among the majority of South Africans. His writings coincide with some of the major political changes in South Africa. In his recent works, he is explicit and protests against Apartheid structures especially in Transkei and Ciskei. In his earlier works he could not articulate the feelings of his people as an imbongi because of the fear of censorship and themes of protests had to be handled with extreme caution if one's manuscripts were to be published at all. He often alludes to national oppression of the majority by the minority and instigates the former to be politically conscious. In some instances (e.g. in his historical poems) he seeks to correct inaccuracies which are presented in history books. Thus showing the listener/reader another side of the coin. He displays very keen interest and deep knowledge of natural phenomena such as seasons of the year and the behaviour of animals during each period. Poems about historical figures are characterised by certain allusions which refer to realities and events in the life of the 'praised one' or his forefathers. This helps to shed light on the present situation. Although fictitious adaptations of genuine events have been done, an element of reality is still prevalent.

Bibliography: pages 217-232.