Prof Jerry Mojalefa delivered his inaugural address

Posted on August 13, 2010

Although praise poetry by black South Africans has received some critical attention, there are still some researchers who find it difficult to understand the structure of this poetic form. They assume that every poem has to have a structure similar to that of poetry written in one of the languages of the West, such as English, and find the absence of such structure in praise poetry worrying. With regard to, for example, modern Sepedi poetry they further say that it is no longer oral, but rather written, and so should have more in common with Western poetry. However, this inaugural address argued the opposite view, namely that traditional oral and modern written Sepedi poetry are similar in many respects to each other and to Western modes (especially where the Western mode in question is that of oral Anglo-Saxon poetry), differing only in content.

Comparable to Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, African oral poetry is largely divorced from meter, where meter is defined in terms of the recurrence of stressed and unstressed syllables. African languages in general and poetry in the African languages in particular, are not characterized by stress, but rather by aspects such as tone, length, patterns of repetition, and unusual grammar.

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