Thursday, May 13, 2010

The National Anthem of Tanzania

Tanzania was the first African nation to use the popular African song "Mungu ibariki Afrika" (God Bless Africa) as its anthem, in 1961 when it was Tanganyika, and was retained after union with Zanzibar in 1964. It is now also used by South Africa (as part of the current anthem) and Zambia (with different words), and formerly used by Zimbabwe, Ciskei, and Transkei. The song was written collectively and composed by Enoch Mankayi Sontonga.

Enoch Mankayi Sontonga (ca. 1873 - 18 April 1905) was the composer of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless Africa), which has been part of the South African national anthem since 1994. It was also the official African National Congress (ANC) anthem since 1925 and is still the national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia. It was also sung in Zimbabwe and Namibia for many years.

Sontonga, a Xhosa, was born in the city of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. He trained as a teacher at the Lovedale Institution and subsequently attended the Methodist Mission school in Nancefield, near Johannesburg. He was also a choirmaster and a photographer.

The first verse and chorus of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika was composed in 1897 and first sung in public in 1899 at the ordination of Reverend Boweni, a Methodist minister. Later the Xhosa poet Samuel Mqhayi wrote a further seven verses.

The song was sung throughout South Africa by several choirs and it quickly became popular. On 8 January 1912, at the first meeting of the South African Native National Congress (the forerunner of the African National Congress), it was sung after the closing prayer. The ANC adopted it as its official closing anthem in 1925.

For many years the site of the grave of Sontonga was unknown, but it was finally located in the "Native Christian" section of the Braamfontein cemetery in the early 1990s; one of the reasons why his grave could not be found is that it was listed under "Enoch" and not "Sontonga".

On 24 September 1996, the grave of Sontonga was declared a national monument and a memorial on the site was unveiled by President Nelson Mandela. At the same ceremony the South African Order of Meritorious Service (Gold) was bestowed on Enoch Sontonga posthumously.