This article explores praise poems as biographical documents. Antjie Krog's poem "pryslied" ("praise poem"), written in reaction to Nelson Mandela's presidential inauguration, is compared to two Xhosa praise poems performed at the inauguration. This comparison makes an appreciation of her poem as praise poem possible. The three praise poems are specifically analysed as texts in which the biography of Mandela is both reproduced and created. From this analysis it becomes clear to what extent Krog applies the conventions and means of the traditional Xhosa praise poem in her poem. Ultimately the focus of the article is on the contribution Krog's poem makes not only to the biography of Mandela, but also to the genre of the praise poem in South Africa and to South African literature. However, problematic aspects of Krog's use of the izibongo tradition are also addressed, and a possible solution is suggested.