Friday, December 20, 2019

TV & Culture: An Excerpt from 'Changing the Literary Map of Africa'

A scene from the popular 'Shaka Zulu' series

‘The TV mini-series “Shaka Zulu” was internationally popular (not least because of the tantalizing amounts of naked flesh displayed) but did it give an accurate account of historical events, or a sympathetic portrayal of traditional South African cultures? History scholar and veteran researcher on African culture, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, in a lecture titled “History of the Zulus”:
“One other item I hoped to take up…was the series, Shaka Zulu. Because so many people have written me or called me wanting to know, ‘What is the book?’ (on Shaka). There is no ‘the book’. I read 30 books on Zulu culture before I was clear about what it was. The (TV) series was an absolute disgrace. It demeaned one of the greatest people we produced in Africa, one of the finest people we produced in Africa. It was the Zulus that kept the Whites from the hinterlands…Shaka, in his day, did not fight Whites, or did not have to fight Whites. He was fighting to consolidate Blacks in order to preserve the country for African people...

Now, the role of that picture (TV’s Shaka Zulu), was to show a grappling tyrant…Had you read any books on it (Zulu culture), you would have known how disgraceful it was. Shaka’s mother (Queen Nandi), one of the great women of Zulu history, was made to look like a Western slut…The lowest class of African woman has more class than that. Why didn’t we (Africans or African-Americans) make the film? We’re not going to get the true story until we make the film. We own the camera, we do the script, we do everything; finance it and distribute it.” ’

Read the full essay in ‘Changing the Literary Map of Africa’ (PDF), available here:

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