Zolani is one of the youngest practitioners of one of the oldest oral traditions in Africa, Ukubonga (praise singing). Hailing from Dutywa -a small town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, Zolani rose to prominence in 1990 when, barely a year after becoming a fully-fledged Imbongi Yesizwe (Poet of the Nation), the schoolboy was called upon to salute with a red hot rendition the recently released Nelson Mandela at his Welcome Home Rally in Transkei.
1991 saw Zolani complete his matriculation, after which he went on to complete a degree in Social Sciences at UWC (The University of the Western Cape), all while continuing his practice as Imbongi, assisting and heading up community projects. His studies included oral traditions, history and cultural issues, and in this way, he became a dual practitioner and scholar of African Poetry as well as Traditional Music. This opened a new path of a wonderful combination as he employed his poetry for musical compositions.
While completing his degree, Zolani remained active in a host of cultural matters. Significantly, in 1994 he participated in numerous preludes throughout South Africa, including the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria on 10 May, where he rendered two items. It was at this point when Zolani became officially, Nelson Mandela’s poet Laureate.
Zolani Mkiva participates in events either as an Imbongi, or alternatively as a Compere. Unlike other performers, he will ordinarily have to give careful consideration before participating in an event, and frequently research the topic at hand, maybe prepare a specific framework for a recital. Like a jazz musician, the lines of an Imbongi are never fixed – they are improvised, at times melodic and at times melancholy. And not always guaranteed to please with tame platitudes - A lion must Roar!
Zolani is committed to the welfare of African Music, Poetry, Dance and arts. In this work Zolani addresses the issues of African leadership, equity and women empowerment.
The Poet of Africa made it into the top three at the World Tournament of Town Criers in 2004 in England.
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