A praise poem for a giant of South Africa, OR Tambo

Wally Serote reminds us how the ground was prepared for current freedoms

13 November 2019 - 11:51 By nb-uitgewers/publishers
'Sikhahlel’ u-OR: A praise poem for Oliver Tambo'.
'Sikhahlel’ u-OR: A praise poem for Oliver Tambo'.
Image: NB Publishers

SA’s poet laureate and anti-apartheid struggle veteran Mongane Wally Serote presents an epic poem in praise of the late Oliver Reginald Tambo, president of the ANC from 1967 to 1991.

S’khahlel' u-OR, written in beautiful, incantatory English, has a rhythm and a forward motion that is compelling and meditative. This praise poem touches on OR Tambo’s childhood in Bizana in the Eastern Cape, the struggle, his role in the ANC and his vision for SA.

Released on the anniversary of Tambo’s birth (October 27), this epic poem is a timely reminder of how the ground was prepared for current freedoms.

the Ngeleit
is said you wondered there beyond it
you had seen the thunder
embraced it and you were witness as a child
when it roared and cracked like a whip on its back
you have seen and you see now the face of this the nation

Mongane Wally Serote is the award-winning author of numerous poetry collections and novels, and a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle. Throughout his career he received various prestigious awards including the Ingrid Jonker Prize, the Noma Award, the Pablo Neruda Award and the Order of Ikhamanga.

He served as an MP and was responsible for overseeing the construction of the Freedom Park Memorial.

In 2018, Serote was named SA’s poet laureate, a position defined as “the face of a nation’s cultural thought, officially appointed by a government or state institution, a champion for the arts and a voice of the people”.