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Kof' abantu, kosal' izibongo?: contested histories of Shaka, Phungashe and Zwide in izibongo and izithakazelo.

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In this dissertation, I argue that there is a pressing need in post-apartheid KwaZulu-Natal to re-assess the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century histories of the region from the perspectives of people whose ancestry was dispossessed and/or displaced in the wars that took place in that period, particularly those that elevated Shaka to dominance. I suggest that because of their retrospective manipulation by the vested interests of power politics, historical processes over the past two centuries, and in the last century in particular, have invested the figure of King Shaka and 'Zulu' ethnic identities with unitary meanings that have made them close to inescapable for most people who are considered 'Zulu'. I argue that there is, therefore, a need to recuperate the histories of the clans which were defeated by the Zulu and welded into the Zulu 'nation'. Following British-Jamaican novelist Caryl Phillips' strategy, I begin to conduct this recuperation through a process of subverting history by writing back into historical records people and events that have been written and spoken out of them. I argue that literary texts, izibongo ('personal' praises) and izithakazelo (clan praises) in this case, offer a useful starting point in recovering the suppressed or marginalised histories of some of the once-significant clans in the region. In the three chapters of this dissertation, I examine the izibongo of three late eighteenth-/early nineteenth-century amakhosi (kings) in the present KwaZulu-Natal region, Shaka kaSenzangakhona of the Zulu clan, Phungashe kaNgwane of the Buthelezi and Zwide kaLanga of the Ndwandwe. In the first chapter, I read Shaka's izibongo as an instance of empire-building discourse in which I trace the belittling representations granted Phungashe and Zwide. In the second and third chapters, I set Phungashe's and Zwide's izibongo, respectively, as well as the histories carried in and alluded to by these texts, and the clans' izithakazelo, alongside Shaka's and examine the extent to which the two amakhosi's izibongo talk back to Shaka's imperialism. I also follow the later histories of the two amakhosi's clans to determine which individuals became prominent in the Zulu kingdom under Shaka and after, as well as point to the revisions of the past that are being conducted in the present by people of the two clans. The versions of the izibongo I study and the hypotheses of history I present are drawn from sources that include the James Stuart Archive, A.T. Bryant, and oral historical accounts from several people I interviewed. Given the present imperatives in South Africa of bringing justice to the various peoples who were dispossessed under colonial and apartheid domination, I argue that recuperating the histories of the clans that were conquered by the Zulu under Shaka's leadership problematises questions of justice in KwaZulu-Natal: if it is legitimate to claim reparation for colonialism and apartheid, then the Zulu kingdom should be viewed under the same spotlight because of the similar suffering it visited on many inhabitants of the region. In that way, we can transcend divisive colonial, apartheid and Zulu nationalist histories that continue to have strong, often negative, effects on the crossing of identity boundaries constructed under those systems of domination.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2004.


Oral tradition--KwaZulu-Natal., Laudatory poetry, Zulu--History and criticism., Zulu (African people)--History--Sources., Theses--English.