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Sandile Dikeni

Love poem
for my country

More 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:

"My country
is for joy
so talk the mountains
with baboons
hopping from boulder to boulder
in the majestic delight
of cliffs and peaks"
  • Why would the poet choose the mountains to symbolize joy? (4)

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  • Why does the poet speak of the "majestic delight of cliffs and peaks"? (4)

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"My country
is for health and wealth"
  • What items does the poet choose as examples of "health" and "wealth"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Is the poet's juxtapositioning of "health" and "wealth" a logical one? (4)

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the golden voice
of a miner's praise
for my country"
  • Is the poet being romantic rather than accurate when speaking of "the golden voice" of the miners? (4)

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In the final two stanzas, the poet moves away from personification and calls instead for a use of human observation.
  • What words underline this change? (3)

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The poet adopts a most romantic stance within the final two stanzas.
  • Is he correct in doing so? (4)

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Comment on the words "we shall celebrate" as a fitting conclusion to this poem. (4)

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