The Importance Of Oral Poetry

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With particular reference to Xhosa oral poetry, discuss the role and complexities of the imbongi, past and present. Chadwick described oral poetry, particularly praise poems as being “one of the most specialised and complex forms of poetry in Africa” (Opal 5). Oral poetry was developed before writing was introduced by Christian missionaries and it is still practiced. The driver of the vehicle of oral poetry is the imbongi who has the ability to spontaneously construct poetry as he/she performs in the moment (Opal 4). Due to changes such as urbanisation and political change, oral poetry has had to evolve in order to express the changes that have occurred in the land. This change was perpetuated by migrant workers who had to hone their craft of oral poetry, which shows that the imbongi had to have the ability to change their craft in order to remain alive. This essay will discuss how this change affected has the role and complexities of the imbongi by comparing the imbongi of the past and the contemporary imbongi. It should be noted that there are different types of poets in the Xhosa tradition. There is one who prepares his poetry beforehand and memorises it and there are those who are literate and have their works published in print media. Opal asserts that most oral speakers, particularly those in rural areas have the ability to create poetry spontaneously. Due to there being different types of oral poets, it is challenging to attach one definite definition of what a
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