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Amal’ezulu by B.W. Vilakazi

A collection of isiZulu poems by B.W. Vilakazi, renowned as the ‘father of Nguni literature’, first published in 1945. The poems express yearnings for his rural life in KwaZulu-Natal and depict the suffering of black migrant workers employed on the gold mines in Johannesburg, subject to the ruthless exploitation of the capitalist system.

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Amal’ezulu (Zulu Horizons) was the second volume of poetry produced by the renowned Zulu author B.W. Vilakazi. First published in 1945, it was written during the ten years he spent living in Johannesburg, having left his rural birthplace in KwaZulu-Natal. The poems in this collection express his yearnings for the beloved land, animals and ancestral spirits of his family home, as well as expressions of deep disillusionment with the urban life he encountered in the ‘City of Gold’, and in particular the suffering of the black miners who brought this gold to the surface but never experienced the benefits of the wealth it produced for the mine owners. Vilakazi was deeply conscious of the subhuman system that held these miners in its grip, and recorded their suffering in many of the poems in the collection.

Renowned as the ‘father of Nguni literature’, Vilakazi was both a traditional imbongi (bard) and a forward-looking poet who could fuse Western poetic forms with Zulu izibongo (praise poetry). In these poems he assumes the role of the voice of the voiceless, and gives poignant expression to the stoic endurance of those caught up in the brutalities of the migrant labour system.