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Lenta, Ashlee Dominique (2005) Tribes of Phalo; tribes of Nonibe: Political community and audience in the poetry of David Manisi. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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David Manisi was a Xhosa imbongi (praise poet) whose public career spanned the apartheid era. In the early 1950s, he was the official poet to Chief Kaiser Mathanzima in rural Transkei. However, after he left Mathanzima's court in 1955 for political reasons, Manisi's career reflects the increasingly marginal position of the rural imbongi in the national context. This dissertation examines the archive of Manisi's izibongo (praise poetry), and argues that the poet's allegiances to the chieftaincy, to liberal multiculturalism and to black nationalism were rendered discordant with one another by the polarised national context. On the one hand, apartheid discourses appropriated terms and distorted institutions associated with the imbongi's art, which was consequently perceived as an uncritical endorsement of corrupt rural politics. On the other hand, the urban-led resistance struggle mobilised a counter-discourse of black unity that often explicitly rejected ethnic identities and rural politics.;Part One deals with written and oral texts produced by Manisi for Xhosa-speaking audiences. I examine the poet's innovative use of print media, and argue that Manisi responded to the increasing constraints on vernacular publication by crafting texts for future rather than immediate Xhosa readerships. Part One concludes by examining the poet's ambiguous performances at the official celebrations marking Transkei's 'independence' from South Africa.;Part Two investigates the body of poetry Manisi produced for academic audiences in South Africa and abroad. I argue that his predominantly white, English-speaking audiences frequently provoked Manisi. That he identified these audiences as descendants of colonials often prevented him from elaborating his vision of liberal multiculturalism. Manisi often retreated rhetorically into an exclusionary Xhosa identity based on claims to land that had been lost to colonials. I argue that the poet's intention of deploying his genre's healing political power in academic environments, was frustrated by the academic expectation of his performances and by discordances in his political ideals that were aggravated by the intercultural context of academic exchange and the polarised politics of apartheid.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:30

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