Kwanyama Poem in Honor of King Mandume

King Mandume ya Ndemufayo, portrait extracted from a photograph of the King with British representatives in South Africa

I found this Kwanyama poem written in honor of King Mandume. It is simple, and rich in culture. It emphasizes the Kwanyama culture: how can one cowardly abandon his king? the only son of his mother? A mother’s only son is everything, so he needs to be protected by those around. It also shows the respect given to the king, as to him were extended leather carpets. From this poem, it is clear that Mandume was a very good rider, a fearless knight, and a fine gunman. The term soba, is the term for king in Kwanyama (Cuanhama in Angola) culture. The reference to the “ragged brother” is based upon the fact that from Kwanyama accounts, Mandume used to “disguise himself in poor clothing and walk about the country to listen to what the people were saying, to see if they were satisfied by his laws” (Loeb, 1962:35), given that he had made significant positive changes to laws; while the Portuguese account on the other hand, state that Mandume used to dress in rags to trick those who would not recognize him as the king, “picking quarrels and exacting cruel vengeance to those who responded to his provocations with crude insults” (Estermann, 1960: 221). When living in the desert, water is crucial to survival; thus, water finds its way into this poem: why would anyone share the little they have with an enemy who has been trying to crush them and force them off their land? Enjoy the poem, translated to English by Dr. Y., To learn more, read “Lyrical Nationalism in Post-Apartheid Namibia” by W. A. Haugh, Lexington Books (2014).


Ovakwanyama ’malai!

Tamuefele Naingo

Adalwa ko ina ewifa,

Semuweda okakambe

N’ outa wosalupenda!

Mandume himupe ombedi,

Himupe nande kanini.

Adalwo ko ina ewifa,

Semuweda okalambe

N’outa wosalupenda.

Ohamba yokayalambadwa

Yokapekwa ya Melulu

Na Ndilokelwa sime.

Oindele hiipe omeva,

Hiipe nande m’omindo,

Yetudipaela ofimu,

Yetudipaela ohamba,

Ohamba yokalambadwa

Yokapekwa ya Melulo

You, Kwanyamas, you are stupid!

You cowardly abandoned the king

Him, his mother’s only son,

The incomparable knight,

With his beautiful gun Mauser !

To Mandume I will not reproach anything,

No matter how little.

To him, his mother’s only son,

The incomparable knight,

With his beautiful gun Mauser !

The soba to whom leather rugs were extended

Melulo’s ragged brother

And Princess Ndilokelwa.

I will not give whites water,

I will not give them any from my little gourd.

They killed our king,

They slaughtered the sovereign!

The soba to whom leather rugs were extended,

Melulo’s ragged brother.