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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Xhosa 'imbongi' as trickster
Authors:Opland, JeffISNI
McAllister, PatrickISNI
Periodical:Journal of African Cultural Studies (ISSN 1369-6815)
Geographic term:South Africa
praise poetry
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13696815.2010.491409
Abstract:The Xhosa 'imbongi' (praise poet) in South Africa served a number of social functions: he recorded clan and family relationships, alluded to historical events and commented on current affairs. He confirmed a sense of identity in his audiences as members of a chiefdom or nation. This article suggests that in enacting his ritual of kingship, the Xhosa 'imbongi' is marked by his accoutrements and his artistic performance as separated from society; he assumes a sacred stance in a transitional position and effects the social incorporation of his audiences; he mediates between chief and subjects, serving as both upholder of the chief's status and as social critic. His liminal location invites comparison with other trickster figures of African mythology and folklore like Ananse and Legba. This perspective explains the occasional self-belittling assertions by the 'imbongi', as well as the 'imbongi''s licence to criticize and use ribald language with impunity. Bibliogr., sum. [Journal abstract]