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Inyathi Ibuzwa kwabaphambili / Wisdom is learnt from the elders

  • Posted on February 4, 2013

The post below was written in Xhosa and translated into English by the author.

Inyathi ibuzwa kwabaphambili

Esi sisicatshulwa kumbongo ka SEK Mqhayi, imbongi eyayixabiseke kakhulu kwizwe lakwaXhosa noMzantsi Afrika uphela.
Lo mbongo wawubiza u “AA ZWELIYAZUZA ITSHAWE LASEBHILITANI.
Kulo mbongo ukwekwa iBhilitane ngezenzo zayo eAfrika. Kodwa kwesisicatshulwa singezantsi ubalisa imbali yokuza komBhilitane kwisizwe sakwaXhosa.Lo mbongo ndikholelwa uba wabhalwe ngo 1925
Nalo lisiz’ iTshawe leBhilitani:
Inzala yenyathikaz’ uVitoliya,
Inkazan’ ebuThixorha kwizwe lakwaNtu,
Ebumoyarha, butolorha, bugqirhana.
Nants’ isiz’ inkwenkwe kaJoji wesihlanu;
Yez’ emadodeni inkwenkw’ akomkhulu:
Umdak’ oliso litshawuz’ imibane,
Lithi lakujezul’ ung’ ungáphanyaza –
Umdak’ osabuphotyo-butyatho,
Unga nganabomi wakuwondela –
Kok’ ithol’ erhamncw’ alondeleki,
Nabàkhe balinga bajub’ isiduli.

Here comes the hero of Britain:
A descendent of the buffalo cow Victoria,
She who is godlike in the country of black people,
She who is wind-like, witch-like, and a war priestess.
Here he comes, the boy of George the Fifth;
From the royal main house he comes to meet men:
Dung-coloured one whose eyes shoot lightning,
If he stares you, you get blinded by the dazzle –
Dungcoloured man, impossible to describe,
Whose eyes glitter as if they have a life of their own –
Nobody can gaze at this calf of the wild beast,
Those who tried to assess him, collapsed.
Here comes the star of the oldest dung from the innermost depth of the kraal!

Iimbongi zidlale kwaye zisadlala indima enkulu ekugcineni nasekukhumbuzeni ngolwazi lwezehlo nangolwazi lokuphila kwembo kaNtu.

Kukho intlobo ezimbini zeembongi, eyomthonyana neyosiba. Le yomthonyama yona isuke idanduluke ibonge ngendaba eyifikela ngesaquphe. Iyahlonitshwa ukwenje njalo itsho imanyelwe noba kukumcimbi onjani,ngoba ukubonga kuyo lubizo nesiphiwo sayo kwaye luphethe ulwazi olunzulu.

Imibongo ibiye yaziwe ngokuba icengcelezwe ngamanye amathuba ezikolweni ngabafundi okanye lulutsha nabhahlali emibhiyozweni nasemicimbini yamasiko nezithethe. Siyabona apha ku SEK Mqhayi nabanye ukuba ezinye imbongi ziye zaqokelela imibongo yazo yaze yabhalwa yashicilelwa ezincwadini ukwenzela uba ulwazi ababhale ngalo lufikelele nakubakude nakwizizalo ezisezayo.

Amasiko nezithethe,iimbongi, amaxhwele, amagqirha izanuse iinkonde nenkondekazi; la ngamakhomba ndlela nabagcini bolwazi ngeendlela zokuphila emakhayeni, ekuhlaleni jikelele nasesizweni sonke siphela.

Ndithanda ukuphefumla nzulu ngabantu abadala, aba ndibabiza iinkonde neenkondekazi, amakhehle namakhelekazi,oogogo nomkhulu, izinyanya zethu,ezisadla amazimba. Ndithi haleluya,chosi camagu kubo. Oluluhlu luhle labantu,lona lungumthombo wokuphila. Nditsho ngoba bangabaphathi nabagcini bolwazi lamandulo,banolwazi ngokuphila ngoba kudala begudla kwelihlabathi. Banolwazi ngokufa, ngoba siyazi ukuba akulilo ikhaya lethu ethi, siyazi uba bona, ngaphandle kwengozi, bayazazi uba sele besondele ekuphindeleni kwilizwe lemimoya balishiye eli le hlabathi. Kananjalo bahlala bezilungisele kwaye befuna ukufundisa nokudlulisela ulwazi.

Olu lwazi baluzisa ngeencoko, uba ubani uyalufuna, icebo kukuzisondeza kubo bonke abantu abadala ongathi uzisondeze kubo. Bayakuthanda ukucebisa, kodwa kuthiwa onendlebe zokuva makeve. Kutshiwo ukuthi ukuba awukwazi ukumamela uzophoswa.

Ndikuhlebele, bafundisa ngobugorha nobugorhakazi kodwa obuntliziyo zimhlophe zihlambulukileyo zingekho ngqwabalala.

Xa ndisuka apha mandiphinde ndiveze kancinci omnye uvimba onzulu. Lo wona uza ngemithandazo nangokuzingisa emathongweni. Nabani osaziyo isunti uyazi ngamathongo nezinyanya. Uthi umntu xa ecela ulwazi emathongweni alunikwe. Le yindlela esetyenziswa kakhulu ngamagqirha, amaxhwele nezanuse ukuze bazuze ulwazi. Olu lwazi luza ngamaphupha nezityhilelo. Ngale ndlela, ulwazi alulahleki kwaphela, lukhona apha endalweni, olufunayo kufuneka aluzingele.Abantwana nolutsha bayalunikwa olulwazi noba bengazi, ngemibuza abayibuza ingqondo zabo. Amagqirha nawo yiyo le indlela aye afunde ngayo imithi yokunyanga abantu abagulayo nabazoxilongisa.

Olu luluhlu labantu abathe babizwa ngokokusekwa kwabo ukuba babengabagcini besintu nempilo. Kuyenzeka ukuba umntu xa egulela isiko livele ngokugula.

Amagqirha ngabanye abantu okuye ithi intwaso xa ivela ivele ngokugula okumile ngeendlela ezininzi. Amagqirha okanye izangoma zithwese ngolwazi, olu lwazi luza ngokuqeqeshwa kwengqondo ngendlela yesintu neyomoya. Ubunzulu bokuqeqeshwa kwamagqirha buntsokothile kwaye abukwazeki ukucaciseka ngamazwi kakhulu, kuba kuyihambo yomoya emhlabeni.

Kwixesha langaphambili xeshikweni oogqirha besilungu bebengekabikho,oogqirha besintu,amagqirha, ibingawo ajongene nempilo yabantu ekuhlaleni.

EsiXhoseni kufundwa ngokwenza, yiyo lento ungafumanisa uba abantu abaninzi abakwazi kubhala nakufunda, ngoba ulwazi lugcinwa kuvimba wolwazi oyingqondo yomntu.Apho ungabuza ikhehle okanye ikhehlekazi ngento eyenzeka lisaluphele likubalisele ngeziganeka nendlela ezenzeka ngazo zitsho zibize namagama abantu.

Ulwazi nobunzulu-lwazi besiXhosa bukwindlela yonke yokuphila.

Masiqale ekuqaleni, ekuzalweni komntu:

Ukwakhela umntwana isigqoko lisiko lokuqala elenzelwa umntwana, ukwenje njalo kukumazisa kumawabo nokumamkela ehlabathini. Umntwana uye angeniswe ebuhlanti ngooyise batsho bathethe nezihlwele zakubo,lo ngumsebenzi wekhaya apho isichiki sejiki singabakhona.

Umqombothi lo kukudla okudala nokuhloniphekileyo kwaXhosa.

Emva kwalomsebenzi iye ibeyimbeleko eyenzelwa umntu. Eli lisiko lebhokhwe lokuqala elenzelwa umntu. Kulo msebenzi kuye kumenywe izihlobo zekhaya zizomanyana ekwamkeleni isihlwele esitsha sekhaya. Isikhumba sebhokhwe sisipho nengubo yokuqala ephiwa umntwana. Umntwana uye alale esikhumbeni sakhe. Kukholelwa uba umntu ongayenzelwanga imbeleko uye asilele kwizigaba zokukhula.

Kwelisiko,ngokwencoko kuye kuvuseleleke imvelaphi yelokhaya, uba kwakusukwa phi, ngubani ozala ubani, ukuthso njalo umnombo wekhaya. Unina womntwana uye axhotyiswe ngeempawu zabantwana balomnombo, ukwenzela uba angothuki, akwazi ukumelana nezompawu xa zivela.

Intonjana nokweluswa kwabafana:

Intombazana iye ingquzelwe okanye yenzelwe intonjana; umfana yena uyeluswa. La masiko omabini ngawokukhulisa umntu, ukukhutshwa ebuntwaneni ungeniswa ebudaleni. Kulamasiko umntu ufundiswa ngesigaba sobomi azongena kuso, evalelisa kwisigaba asishiyayo.

Ingoma ibaluleke kakhulu kwizindlu zonke zakwaXhosa, isetyenziswa kakhulu kulamasiko nakuwo onke amasiko njengoko olunye ulwazi umntu nomntu uzisulungela kwiingoma ezivunywayo.

Kuye kuhlatywe inkomo ngemini yomgidi. Xa ndilapha mandichaphazele ukubaluleka kwenkomo kumzi kaXhosa. Iinkomo zibubutyebi bekhaya,ziphinde zibaluleke ekwenzeni amasiko. Inkomo le esiXhoseni isisilo esihloniphekileyo endalweni nasempilweni. Kukholelwa uba zizisa impilo kwaye zinobuthixo. Izindlu zethu zisindwa zigcinwe zicocekile ngobulongwe okanye umnameko osuka enkomeni. Ubulongwe obomileyo ngaphandle kwesibaya iye ibe ngamalongwe atsho abaswe xa kuphekwayo. Kuphinde futhi ubulongwe obusesibayeni bujika ibengumgquba osetyenziswa ekulimeni,ekondleni izityalo ukwenzela uba zinike ukutya okutyebileyo. Ubulongwe obu buphinda buzise amakhowa xa kuthe kwaduduma ngexesha lasehlotyeni. Iinkomo ziphinda zisiphe izikhumba zokwenza izigubhu, zona zihambiselana nomculo wethu,  ukuhlokomisa amahlombe ethu singabantu nokuchukumisa abadala noQamata uNkulu-nkulu, umseki wehlabathi.

Abantu xa betshata benzelwa amasiko okubahlangisa nokuhlanganisa amakhaya abo.

Nditsho nkqu ebhubha okanye esweleka umntu, wenzelwa amasiko okungcwatywa.

Kwasigaba umntu asithathayo ebomini, sikhungwa ngesiko,ezi zizikolo zokuphila.

Izindlu zasemakhaya,oronta, ngokokweba elwimini lesilungu,Rondavels, ukuzakha, ekulimeni, ekuphekeni,ekuthezeni, ukutya kwethu,ukukha amanzi nasemifuleni, izicamba,izithebe,ingoboza,ingqayi,imitshayelo,imfuyo yethu okanye impahla njengoko. Imisebenzi yezandla nendlela yokuphila yiyo esizondeza elwazini oluyimpilo.
Lusiza ngqo, lungajikelezanga.

Yiyo lento ndithande ukuchaphazela emasikweni ngoba wona anendlela yokuyiphangalalisa ingqondo yomntu atsho abekrele krele ngokubhetele.

Ngoba isikolo siyakwazi ukusilela ukufundisa yonke into ngobugabalala bayo,

Amehlo am aye avuleka ngendlela engummangaliso xeshikweni ndithwasa. Ootitshala bam esikolweni bazama ukundifundisa ngokuthwasa,ukugcwala nokufa kwenyanga; kodwa ndade ndayophumelela amabanga aphezulu ndingaqondisisanga uba ezizinto zenzeka njani noba zithetha ukuthini.

Ukuze ndiqonde kakuhle ndifundiswe ligqirha ebelindithwasisa. Ndatsho ndabona ukuba izinto ezininzi ezenzekayo endalweni ziqhakamshelene. Ukugcwala kwenyanga kuqhakamshelene nolwandle,nomoya,neemifula kunye nemizimba yethu.

Ukufunda nokukwazi ukufunda kubalulekile kwixetsha esiphila ngalo, abantu abadala, nkqu aba abangafundanga bayayikhuthaza imfundo. Ulwazi lonke lubalulekile, kuthiwa ungalahli uMbo ngoPhoyiyana. Masithi silusebenzisa ulwazi oluza ngendlela yasemzini,sibe silugcinile ulwazi lwemveli, kwaye silusebenzise.

Itsho lentu inikeze ithuba lokuba abancinci bafundise abadala xeshikweni abadala befundisa abancinci.

Lo ngumzekele wobomi bakuphila,iyawuhlala injalo. Nje ngoko ulwazi lusanda,lufunwa ukwamkelwa,ngale ndlela yabantu abadala nabancinci ulwazi luyagcineka ekuphileni.
Yiyo lento isizwe sikhala ngombulalazwe obizwa ingculaza, ngoba kuzobakho ixesha apho ulwazi lobudala luzonqaba njengoko abantu abaninzi bebhubha besebatsha.
Yiyo lento ingumbulalazwe,ibulala izizala ezizayo uba zezingabhadli kuba bengazulufamana kakuhle ulwazi lwabadala.

Ngesisizathu, kubaluleke ukufunda nokubhala, batsho abantu abadala, ukuze izizalo ezizayo ziwufumane umfutho wolwazi lesintu kuze kutyhileke ubumnandi nobutyebi bobomi bemveli.

Sifundile sinje.

Ukuququmbela, kukho ulwazi olungashicileleka ngokwezibhalo kodwa kuphinde kubekho olungenokwazi ukushicileleka. Abantu abadala, amakhehle namakhehlekazi ethu, athi Phambili Ngemfundo!!! masithweswe izidanga ngezidanga,masindize thina sizintaka ezintlesibhale ngeelwimi ngeelwimi, nangolu lwethu. Nathi sifundisa izizwe ngobuncuthu mazangwa wolwazi esiluphathisiweyo.

Kwamna Nokhanyo lo, ndagqibela kudala ukubhala isiXhosa,ngummangaliso kwalo,ndiyalibonga elithuba,yanga angakhula tana.

Inyathi Ibuzwa kwabaphambili

The idiom above means wisdom is learnt from the elders.

The stanza below, is from SEK Mqhayi’s poem titled “A A Zwelizuza Itshawe lamabhilitane”. SEK Mqhayi was a worthy and respected praise singer andpoet of the Xhosa people, well known throughout the country because of his poetic writings and powerful narratingch. In the following stanza he tells of the coming of a royal British young man. It is history told through a poem, written around the mid-1920s:
.

Nalo lisiz’ iTshawe leBhilitani:
Inzala yenyathikaz’ uVitoliya,
Inkazan’ ebuThixorha kwizwe lakwaNtu,
Ebumoyarha, butolorha, bugqirhana.
Nants’ isiz’ inkwenkwe kaJoji wesihlanu;
Yez’ emadodeni inkwenkw’ akomkhulu:
Umdak’ oliso litshawuz’ imibane,
Lithi lakujezul’ ung’ ungáphanyaza –
Umdak’ osabuphotyo-butyatho,
Unga nganabomi wakuwondela –
Kok’ ithol’ erhamncw’ alondeleki,
Nabàkhe balinga bajub’ isiduli.

Here comes the hero of Britain:
A descendent of the buffalo cow Victoria,
She who is godlike in the country of black people,
She who is wind-like, witch-like, and a war priestess.
Here he comes, the boy of George the Fifth;
From the royal main house he comes to meet men:
Dung-coloured one whose eyes shoot lightning,
If he stares you, you get blinded by the dazzle –
Dung coloured man, impossible to describe,
Whose eyes glitter as if they have a life of their own –
Nobody can gaze at this calf of the wild beast,
Those who tried to assess him, collapsed.
Here comes the star of the oldest dung from the innermost depth of the kraal!

Praise singers have played and still play a huge role in preserving history and reminding us of past events and the importance of sharing old learnt wisdom.


The Xhosa people differentiate praise singers into Eyosiba and Imbongi zomthonyana. Eyosiba, taken from Usiba ( usiba is a fountain pen). These praise singers are the ones that write poems as they are revealed and sometimes publish them. Eyomthonyama is the kind of praise singer who instantly gets inspired and will rise at any occasion and praise as the praise is revealed. This is their gift and is therefore respected and they are listened to as they hold and reveal worthy wisdom and inspiration.

Customs and tradition, traditional healers and elderly people are the core carriers and preservers of wisdom on ways of living in family setups and communities and by extension the nation

The elderly people, such as grandmothers and grandfathers amongst others, are our live ancestors. They have lived through many experiences and thus are wise souls. I hail this group of wisdom keepers. They share the knowledge through conversations, anyone who wishes to learn from them ought to invest time in sitting, talking and questioning them. They hold knowledge on one’s ancestry as well as the history of the nation or at the least certain pockets of it. They give wisdom freely and are the greatest teachers and advisors. There is a saying ‘Onendlebe zokuva makeve’, translated roughly into English , ‘’ she/he who has hearing ears must hear.’

Another archive box is our ancestors. This one is acquired through prayer, meditation and enquiring. Anyone who enquires from the ancestors gets the wisdom they need. This way of acquiring wisdom is used mostly by traditional healers. There are also certain medicines that channel the communication between the living and their ancestors. The information is delivered through dreams and revelations. In this way no information in the world is ever lost. People who live in nature and children are much more receptive of this information as they are more connected. This is also the way in which izangoma and inyanga (healers) learn medicines and know of people’s illnesses.

This is a gift and a calling to be preserved and archived In the past, in the absence of western doctors, these were the primary doctors of the spirit and body and they still hugely are for a vast majority in our Southern African Society

Deep knowledge of Xhosa life and living is embedded in the way of life.  A way to illustrate this is in the customs practised from birth to life. In summary, when a child is born a ceremony is done to welcome then into the family. Umqombothi (traditional beer) is brewed and a child is taken to the kraal to be introduced to her/his ancestors and that is where inkaba (umbilical cord) is buried. Then after, a bigger ceremony called imbeleko is held, it can be done when a child is a bit older; mostly from when a child is almost a year up to 5 years. In this ceremony conversations include the ancestry of the family and talks of traits of the ancestry are revealed. This is primarily a goat ceremony. The goat skin is tanned and used as a sleeping mat for the child. This ceremony can happen at any age if missed at childhood.

It is observed that if it has not been done and is a family custom, the person in question lacks in certain aspects of life.

The next ceremonies are of coming of age, intonjana for the girls and ukweluka for the boys. These are ceremonies to bid childhood goodbye and to embrace youth. In both, the young youth are equipped with necessary wisdom to guide them through the youth stage, preparing them for adulthood. They are both cow ceremonies and they validate the worth of a person as cows are respected beasts in the Xhosa culture.

Cows are held as wealth of families as well as godly. We use cow-dung to smear onto floors to keep houses fresh,clean and to strengthen the floors. Dried cow-dung is used in fire for cooking, old cow-dung in the kraal is used as manure. In the summer season of thunder and lighting, mushrooms grow from cow-dung. The skins are used to make drums for our music, cattle drums echo sacredness through the living reaching the ones that have passed. Cow skins can also be tanned and used as sleeping mats.

When people marry, ceremonies to mark their connectedness are done, even when ones passes, burial ceremonies are done. Every stage a human reaches is marked by a ceremony and these ceremonies hold and teach knowledge to the present generation from the older, thus preserving knowledge. Customs and tradition widen ones scope of thinking and breed a reasoning nation.

School and education, sometimes does not illustrate how nature works and that there is knowledge that can not be learnt from a book. I struggled to learn ocean tides in my geography classes and I was taught by my Sangoma mentor, who only got up to grade 2 at school, but had the ability to widen my thinking to the connectedness of nature, how the ocean behaviour is connected to the moon, rivers and winds.

Having said all this, our elders encourage education for the youth though they are mostly not well learned and because of that; they also see it imperative for the youth to study so as to be their teachers of new age thought. They teach of embracing all available wisdom. However, there’s another idiom that goes ‘Ungalahli umbo wakho ngoPhoyiyana’, this means do not discard of the old to replace it with the new. In this context this means we ought not discard of our wisdom and how we keep it to replace it with new forms of keeping wisdom and knowledge, or rather, as we learn new ways of archiving; let us keep the old ones.

This makes for a knowledgeable nation as the youth inform the old whilst they too learn from the elders. In this way knowledge is highly preserved. This is the reason the elders are disturbed by the huge deaths due to HIV/Aids as this is yielding an age gap and a future age gap of no grandmothers nor grandfathers and thus a loss of knowledge keepers, a scenario that will impede the wisdom of future children. Because of this, they see written archives as imperative so future generations can get a hint of how their ancestry lived. Because this knowledge is already embedded in our DNA’s, writings will be able to jolt a certain way of thinking that will lead them back to the rich,joyful and abundant ways of their ancestors.

In conclusion, there is information that can be kept and preserved through written archives as well information that can be kept through passing it from generation to generation through oral narratives and ways of life. As I noted earlier, the elders are encouraging of education,reading and writing in various languages, including our own. It is going to be through our writings and recordings of events and ways of living that we can broadly teach and inspire other nations too of the wealth and wisdom that has been bestowed upon us.

I, Nokhanyo am inspired to write more in isiXhosa, for it is easy to forget what one does not practice.

Nokhanyo Mhlana is an Archival Platform Correspondent based in the Eastern Cape

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  • Bhota Nokhanyo,

    Into entle iyanconywa.  Ndibuleke indlela obhala ngayo kwaye ndiyaqonda unokuba lulutho ekwandiseni ukwaziwa kwesiNtu kwihlabathi jikelele.

    Uwungebi namdla wokuba uthathe inxaxheba ekuphuhliseni isiXhosa, nayo yonke into engaso phaya ku Wikipedia.org?  Lo nguvimba wolwazi uwakhiwa ngabantu bengajonganga nzuzo, ukuze babelane ngolwazi. Ndisankcumpaya ukuguqula ulwazi olushicilelwe apho. Yeyele mawethu, masize kuncedisaneni.

    Ukuba kukho bantu bambi abanokuwuthakazelela loo msebenzi, ungabachazela.

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