Original Research

Three protagonists in B.W. Vilakazi’s “Ezinkomponi” (“On the mine compounds”)

N. Zondi
Literator | Vol 32, No 2 | a17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v32i2.17 | © 2011 N. Zondi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 June 2011 | Published: 22 June 2011

About the author(s)

N. Zondi, Department of IsiZulu Namagugu, University of Zululand, South Africa

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In this poem the great Zulu poet B.W. Vilakazi is preoccupied with the surreal scene of a gold mine compound in the 1940s Johannesburg, and reflects on the three protagonists of the drama that plays out in front of him: the miners, mine magnates and the heavy machinery, all things that drive the entire enterprise of enslaving the workers. Feelings flood his imagination: about the terrible status of the miners (with whom he identifies); what they have left behind, their dreams and the reality they battle with; the unfeeling and overwhelming spectre of industrialisation, and distant capitalist interests; and the instruments of oppression: the deafening mine machines. These three protagonists(especially the first and the third,) assume human characteristics and fight to justify their respective roles in the conflict. Vilakazi’s famous protest poem becomes a cry for help in the face of destructive industrial advancement as everpresent human drama, which pits values of gold/ and money against what is more fully human and worth living for; possibly unachievable present prosperity against a vision of future happiness and fulfilment.


Goldmine; Workers Pain; Suffering; Alienation


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