A COLLECTION OF XHOSA POEMS with artwork by Mbali-Enhle Khaya Smith

From the Introduction of UMLASI

“In Xhosa, a shepherd is Umalusi. As imagined in this poetry collection, shepherds mind their charges. Furthermore, communication connects people. Speech and writing are material expressions of experiences, thoughts, dreams, fears, aspirations, and wonders. With the diversity of languages in South Africa, access to people’s experiences and thoughts is often limited and constrained through one’s command of language, spoken and written. As a result, there can be hurdles to connecting with
one another. Language can divide, separate, and alienate us from one another. Consequently, a shepherd’s responsibilities in this context are multifold.

The poems collected in Umalusi were conceived and written in Xhosa because my mother, the central subject of the collection, is a Xhosa woman and spoke Xhosa to me throughout my life with her. This is how I learned the language without formal instruction in school. Through writing the poems in Xhosa, I gift the original giver her treasures in return. In essence, Umalusi is an amalgamation of my formal learning to read and write Afrikaans and English in school and my mother’s tuition by immersing me in the culture and traditions of her people.”

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