A Gift to all Mothers – Umalusi (The Shepherd)

Posted on May 15, 2023

On Tuesday, 9 May ESI Press and the Faculty of Humanities launched Edwin Smith’s second collection of poems, Umalusi (The Shepherd)


The collection, which consists of 32 poems written in both Xhosa and English, is an ode to Smith’s mother who passed away on the 9th of May in 2010. Beyond its sentimentality, Umalusi is also about language, culture, and nationality and allows for an exploration of Smith’s “multilingualism [which imbues] the Xhosa language with [his] personal idiosyncratic aesthetic”. Smith also added that the book “is an attempt to free Xhosa from its archaic constraints so it can evolve like English … We must guide Xhosa … from the edge of South Africa into the interior where it can flourish, pollinate, and enrich our imagination”.


The book was a collaborative project with Smith’s daughter, Mbali-Enhle Smith, who produced the cover and imagery in the book. Mbali-Enhle, who currently lives in Germany, said that the book gave her an opportunity to reflect on her memories of South Africa and the Xhosa culture. She further added that the artworks pay homage to her ancestors and her late grandmother.


Along with reading four poems from the collection, Edwin reflected on his life in apartheid South Africa, in exile and his eventual return to the country and shared the story behind each poem with the audience.


Prof Africa (Acting Dean), in her welcoming remarks, noted that the collection feeds one’s soul and that it was fitting that it be launched in the lead up to Mothers Day, which is celebrated in South Africa on the 14th of May.


- Author Danolien van den Berg

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences