South African Journal of African Languages

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Echoes of and affinities with Bogosi (kingship) in the works of Sol T. Plaatje

DS Matjila, K Haire


This article highlights echoes of allusions to and affinities with bogosi (kingship) that infuse Plaatje’s writings. The theoretical framework presents four images of bogosi drawn from life and literature: the roles and functions of a Batswana kgosi; an exemplary historical Batswana chief, Kgama II; a view of bogosi as explicated in Setswana proverbs and its significance as depicted in Monyaise’s modern novel, Bogosi Kupe (Kingship is Sacred), published in 1967. The analysis firstly demonstrates affinities between the lion stories in Mhudi and metaphors commonly found in praises for dikgosi in Setswana poetry. Secondly, it highlights cultural allusions that betray a Motswana worldview in the eulogy of Marcus Brutus in Plaatje’s translation of Julius Caesar into Setswana. It further illustrates in Plaatje’s translation, language and sound metaphor that echo a Setswana poetic idiom. Thirdly, a view of bogosi drawn from selected proverbs in Plaatje’s collection is contrasted with a progressive view of leadership, articulated in his late journalism.

South African Journal of African Languages 2014, 34(1): 65–73

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