Enoch Sontonga was born in Uitenhage around 1873. He trained as a teacher, qualified, and was appointed to a Methodist missionary school in Nancefield, near Johannesburg, where he taught for several years. That was in 1896. Over 120 years ago.
History recalls that that Enoch was a pious man, a musical man, a distinguished poet, and a choirmaster. [He was a pretty good photographer too, as it happens.]
In 1897, aged only 24, he woke up from a restless sleep, and quickly penned two stanzas of a hymn. It began with the words “Nkosi Sikelel' IAfrica”. It was a natural, but haunting piece, a prayer asking God to bless his people, the nations of Africa.
When he wrote it, he had in mind an arrangement that would suit a choir – he wanted voices that could be gathered together to lift the composition in harmony. It seemed to have worked, because it wasn’t long before it came to be a popular request whenever his choir went out to sing. The song touched people. Other choirs began to sing it as well. And so the composition, and it’s message, spread.
Enoch Sontonga passed away in 1905. He was just thirty-two years old.
In 1912, 7 years after his death, the African National Congress launched his hymn into prominence as an anthem of Black struggle against oppression.
By 1925 "Nkosi Sikelel ‘IAfrica" had emerged as the official anthem of the African National Congress (ANC), the struggle hymn of Black South Africans.
Singing that song became an act of resistance during apartheid‚ and it was strictly prohibited in those times.
.in 1994 Nelson Mandela proclaimed two National Anthems for the new South Africa: “Nkosi Sikelel’ IAfrica” and “The Call of South Africa” (Die Stem). After serious deliberation, however, it was resolved to consolidate both into one National Anthem. That is why, today,, "Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrika" and “Die Stem van Suid Afrika”, the former South African anthem, are amalgamated as our one official national anthem
Take a listen to This YouTube version of “Nkosi Sikelel’ IAfrica” performed by a group of interesting people….. CLICK HERE