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THE DASSIE and THE HUNTER (article first published : 2005-06-15)

Adams Campus Bookshop, Ikeís Books & Collectables and the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press is to launch Jeff Oplandís The Dassie and the Hunter towards the end of June.

The Dassie and the Hunter chronicles the life, times and poetry of extraordinary Xhosa praise poet, the late David Yali-Manisi, and his growing friendship and fruitful working relationship with the author. Jeff Opland is a renowned scholar who is recognised world-wide as a foremost authority on Xhosa izibongo or praises.

Jeff Oplandís perceptive account gives insight not only into Manisi himself but the complex art form of praise poetry - a spontaneous performance art of extraordinary subtlety and sophistication that, as Opland notes, embodies in itself the ancestral culture, history and politics of the Xhosa nation.

What is unique about this book is the personal dimension that Opland brings to the subject, fusing impeccable scholarship with self-reflective autobiographical narrative. The book incorporates a variety of styles, from autobiographical to verbatim interview and its shift of voice reflect the authorís own internal journey as his deepening friendship with Manisi works its humanising alchemy. Opland assumes, increasingly, the role of conduit for Manisiís dynamic but tragically undervalued talent.

The Dassie and the Hunter is a celebration of the supreme talent of a gifted African poet, and the interaction of a black and a white South African reaching out to each other.

Jeff Opland was born and grew up in Cape Town where he completed degrees in mathematics and medieval English. He taught at the universities of Cape Town, Durban-Westville, Toronto, Rhodes and Yale, as well as at Vassar College and Charterhouse before ending his classroom career at the University of Leipzig.

His principal publications include Anglo-Saxon Oral Poetry (1980), Xhosa Oral Poetry (1983), Izwi laBantu (1994, with Peter Mtuze) and Xhosa Poets and Poetry (1988). He also edited the collection, Words that Circle Words: a choice of South African Oral Poetry (1992, AD. Donker)




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