This is an experiment. I have been translating these and working with them for a while now, with my grade 7s and 10s. They are my favourite pieces of oral literature, and an anchor to many memories of September in KwaDukuza. They are the praises of uShaka kaSenzangakhona. These are my translations (and alternatives and suggestions are encouraged).
Kwaze kwas’ amanxulum’ esibikelana.
Wild-rager of Ndaba,
Wid-rager of the Neverending Regiment,
Who rages in the great houses,
Until the great houses cover each other over.
The one persecuted by Ndaba.
The one who refuses to be told, who refuses to be whispered about.
The disher up who doesn’t get hit,
He who thunders even while seated, He of the house of Menzi.
Bakhumbul’ amagaw’ abebesi.
Young pumpkin which they will bite,
Which they will then spit out,
Remembering that young pumpkins are not ripe for eating.
Ilemb’ eleq’ amany’ amalembe ngoukhalipha.
The one persecuted by Ndaba.
The blade that conquers all others with its sharpness.
Uteku lwabafazi bakwaNomgabi,
Bebetekula behlez’ emlovini
Beth’ uShaka kayikubusa,
Kanti yilaph’ ezakunethezeka,
UShaka ngiyesab’ ukuthi nguShaka,
UShaka kwakuyinkosi yaseMashobeni.
The jesting sport of Nomgabi’s women,
Jesting while they bask in the sun,
Saying that Shaka will never rule,
That he will not be king,
Whereas he was on the point of a comfortable life,
Shaka whom I am afraid to say is Shaka,
Shaka who was the king among the amaShobe.
Inkomo ekhal’ eMthonjaneni,
Izizwe zonke ziyizwil’ ukulila;
Izwiwe wuDunjwa wasoYengweni,
Yezwiwa wuMangcengeza wakwaKhali,
Yaye yezwiwa ngamaNtungwa akwaSokhumalo.
The cow that cries on the Mthonjaneni heights,
All the nations have heard the lamentation;
It is heard by Dunjwa of the Place of Enticement,
It was heard by Mangcengeza of Sharp’s kraal,
and was heard by the amaNtungwa of Sokhumalo’s kraal.
Inteth’ egolwe nganti zamkhonti kwaMalandela.
Umlilo wothathe kaMjokwane,
Umlilo wothathe, wubuhanguhangu,
Ushis’ izikhova zaseDlebe,
Kwaye kwasha nezaseMabedlana.
Locust caught on the tip of the spear from Malandela’s house.
Fire of the dry tinder of the one persecuted,
Fire of the dry tinder, scorching and fierce,
Burning the owls of Dlebe,
Then setting fire to those at Mabedlana.
Ungezwa bethi valela njalo Solunjalose
Abasho kuwe wena kaNdaba,
Bash’ unyok’ uMbulazi,
Odabule kuNdima noMgovu,
Imikhubulo bayishiy’ izinqindi,
Imbewu yasal’ emanxiweni.
You can hear them saying “always close ranks, Solunjalose”;
They never say this to you, you of Ndaba’s house,
They say your mother was uMbulazi,
She who hemmed in the lion.
She who split off from Ndima and Mgovu,
Wives always bellied and having babies,
The second-tillings that they left blunt,
The seed which stayed in the great houses.
Odabule kuBhuzane phezulu,
Wakhethelwa wudwendwe lwamanzi;
Wadlula kuMcombo zigoduka,
Wabuz’ izindlela kuDunjwa,
Kanti ngabezibuza kuMbozane.
Who split off from lofty Bhuzane,
Who chanced upon a trailing party of rietbok;
Who passed by Mcombe when the cattle were homing,
Who asked the way to Dunjwa,
Whereas he should have been asking to go to Mbozane.
These are the first of a few installments – I hope you enjoy them.