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An isibongo is a clan name, or praise name, in Zulu culture. The term is derived from the verb -bonga meaning "to praise", "to thank", "to worship" or "to call by a clan name".

The plural form, "izibongo" (clan names), refers to praise poetry, a traditional Zulu artform in which the fame of a person is extolled. Izibongo are classically performed in public in a dramatic style, and usually reference the ancestry of the person being praised.

Since the advent of democracy in South Africa, politicians -- particularly presidents -- are often accompanied to public events by their izimbongi (singular "imbongi"), or praise poets. The poets' performance sets the scene for a political speech or ceremony. In former times, these poets only accompanied traditional leaders, such as monarchs.


  • Masuku, Norma (November 2005). "Perceived oppression of women in Zulu folklore: a feminist critique" (PDF). University of South Africa. p. 14
  • Turner, Noleen

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