For many, many months this book has been waiting for me. It was too thick to read it in one weekend. It is too deep to read in it once a while. The holidays brought relief. This book, and a few others, were put into a crate with reading material for our holidays on the shores of the river Drôme (France). The largest part of the book was read at the shoreline. The remaining chapters were dealt with at home. I managed to finish the book.
What is this book about? It is about the question: what is the Zulu-identity? The Zulu are an ethnic group from South Africa. They are famous for their king Shaka, many books and films have been devoted to him. Shaka lived in the nineteenth century and made the Zulu into a unity. Or was it slightly different? What do we really know about him? And what do we know about the size of his kingdom? The politician Buthulezi makes good use of his Zulu-roots, but is it historically sound?
This study contains 52 chapters, written by a large group of academics, mainly from South Africa and the United States of America. In many different ways they test prevaling thoughts about the Zulu, their history and their culture. The result, I think, is a strong proces of de-mythologizing.
From different angles it is made clear that Zulu-culture and Zulu-history is used for political ends. This is done by musea that evoke a certain image that is favourable for those that lead the Zulu (or think they lead the Zulu). This happens and happened in the tourism-industry that is advertising with the help of the image of a mighty Zulu-kingdom. And also to please those in power.
At the end it is clear that it is not easy to define the Zulu-identity of Zulu-identities.
Benedict Carton, John Laband, Jabulani Sithole – Zulu identities. Being Zulu, past en present – Scottsville South Africa 2008 – 633 pages