Since his assassination in 1828, King Shaka Zulu--founder of the
powerful Zulu kingdom and leader of the army that nearly toppled
British colonial rule in South Africa--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,
a demon of apartheid, the namesake of a South African theme park,
even the subject of a major TV film.
"Terrific Majesty"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.
These insights are illustrated with subtlety and authority in a
series of highly original analyses.
"Terrific Majesty" is an exceptional work whose special
contribution lies in the methodological lessons it delivers; above
all its sophisticated rehabilitation of colonial sources for the
precolonial period, through the demonstration that colonial texts
were critically shaped by indigenous African discourse. With its
sensitivity to recent critical studies, the book will also have a
wider resonance in the fields of history, anthropology, cultural
studies, and post-colonial literature.
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