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Zolani Mkiva

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Zolani Mkiva Awarded for:
Achieving international recognition in praise poetry and being an outstanding champion of African oral traditions who has done not only South Africa proud, but the continent as a whole.

Profile of Zolani Mkiva

Zolani Mkiva, who hails from Idutywa in the Eastern Cape, was born in the seventies to Gwebindlala. In 1994, he obtained a BA degree in Social Science at the University of the Western Cape, followed by a BA (Hons) in Development Studies in 1996.

He started using his gift of praise poetry at a young age, but only rose to prominence in 1990 as a young imbongi (praise singer) when he had the honour of praising former President Nelson Mandela at a welcome home rally in the then Transkei. Consolidating this role, Mkiva was then appointed “Imbongi Yesizwe”, (Poet to the Nation).

He was later also the praise singer at Nelson Mandela’s Presidential inauguration in 1994, and subsequently became the President’s Poet Laureate. He served as master of ceremonies for the international conference of writers at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House Of World Cultures) in Berlin, participated in numerous local and international events (including Poetry Africa 2000), and worked with Salif Keita, Bayete, Angelique Kidjo, Papa Wemba and Ismael Lo, among others.

Mkiva released his first solo album Halala South Africa in 1997, followed by an album called Qaddafi in 2000.

In 2004, he was one of the three finalists at the World Tournament of Town Criers in England. He has garnered numerous awards both locally and internationally, including Die Woche Award, Germany; the Prince of Afro-Poetry, Zimbabwe; the Sharq Toranorali Award, Uzbekistan; Best Traditional Artist in Africa KORA Award; Champion of Oral Poetry, England; Best Praise Poet, South African Traditional Music Achievement (SATMA) Award; and a SATMA Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to Nelson Mandela, he has also sung the praises of others who have fought for liberation, including the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba, the late Muammar Gadaffi, Seewoosagur Rangoolam of Mauritius and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan of Ghana.

He is currently manager of the Mkiva Foundation, which deals with rural development in under-resourced communities. He also produces music with other African artists throughout the continent and is also involved in African Regeneration and revival of moral values.