Since his assassination in 1828, King Shaka Zulu – founder of the Zulu kingdom – has made his empire in popular imaginations throughout Africa and the West. Shaka is today the hero of Zulu nationalism, the centerpiece of Inkatha ideology. This text explores the reasons for the potency of Shaka’s image, examining the ways it has changed over time – from colonial legend, through Africanist idealization, to modern cultural icon. This study suggests that “tradition” cannot be freely invented, either by European observers who recorded it or by subsequent African ideologues. There are particular historical limits and constraints that operate on the activities of invention and imagination and give the various images of Shaka their power. The author argues that colonial texts were critically shaped by indigenous African discourse. With its sensitivity to recent critical studies, the book should also have a wider resonance in the fields of anthropology, cultural studies, and post-colonial literature.
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