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Sandile Dikeni

Love poem
for my country

Some questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 18 January 2014
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This is a simple poem where a poet depicts his love for South Africa, calling forth praise from the valleys, the plains, the mountains and the sea, as well as from all the people living therein.

It is, however, poetry with a purpose: to unite the people in fervour for their country. This is not the poet speaking of his own inner self but rather the poet striking a nationalistic tone.


Sandile Dikeni was born in Victoria West in the old Cape Province -- today the Northern Cape -- but would finish high school in the Eastern Cape in what was then the Ciskei.

He made attempts at studying law at both Wits University and the University of the Western Cape but would eventually receive a National Diploma in Journalism through the Peninsula Technikon.

Dikeni became drawn into student politics and unrest during the dark days of the 1980s, and would spend some months in prison. It was then he discovered that poetry had a power to move people and could be used for political purposes.

He began to conduct readings of poetry while in prison. After his release, he would continue these readings at political and cultural events. He has, however, also appeared on international stages around the world.

He worked as a journalist and became editor of Die Suid Afrikaan, a bilingual political journal. Thereafter he was involved in radio with the SABC and later became the arts editor at The Cape Times.

His poetry, however, had already found its way into newspapers and, in 1992, his first anthology called Guava Juice was published. This was soon followed by Telegraph to the Sky.

Initially he was known as a political poet but, after the democratic elections in 1994, he moved steadily into themes of broader appeal.

His public recitations are always from the heart, never bound to his text and therefore always differing from the printed versions.

Today he lives and works in Cape Town where he is still committed to poetry, with regular workshops at the Phillipi informal settlement.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

The poet makes much use of personification in "Love poem for my country".
  • What is meant by personification? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Explain the use of personification in the first three stanzas. (6)

[Need help?]

"where ancient rivers flow
the full circle of life
under the proud eye of birds
adorning the sky."
  • What is the significance of the poet's choice of the word "ancient"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • In what way could the ancient rivers flow "the full circle of life"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on the poet's choice of the words "proud" and "adorning" within the context of this poem. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Is there any link between the "eye of birds" and "the full circle of life"? In other words, why would the poet have juxtaposed these statements in such close proximity? (4)

[Need help?]

"where reptiles caress
its surface
with elegant motions
glittering in their pride"
  • Why would the poet choose the verb "caress" for his description of the reptiles? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Is the poet correct in his choice of the words "elegant motions" and "glittering in their pride"? (4)

[Need help?]

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