Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: The Zulu

It’s been 27-years since one of the giants of South African theatre, Mbongeni Ngema, got on stage –as an actor. For an intense one-hour thirty minutes Ngema uses the beauty and power of story-telling to take us back in time when Zulu warriors, Impi, were a force to be reckoned with.

He tells the audience about the legendary Shaka Zulu – from when he was a little boy, until he was a grown man to be assassinated; betrayed by his brothers and bodyguard.

It is a well recorded history that Shaka Zulu built a powerful empire and this great African nation has tried to keep afloat within the melting pot of globalisation. The most intriguing part of the story is the main attraction; The Great Battle of Isandlwana (1879) – the greatest victory over the Colonial forces on African Soil.

The strategy behind this great battle is intriguing and Ngema really gets the imagination rolling as he describes in great detail how it all happened.  

But to bring it closer to home – I was fascinated to learn a bit about my personal history from this story. Let me break it down; I’m from a Sesotho speaking tribe from KwaZulu-Natal and not the Free State or Lesotho (Where most Sesotho speaking people are from). I've always wondered why a random hill in this majestic Zulu kingdom is home to Basotho. My maternal Grandfather is Joseph Molefe and maternal Grandmother Harriet Khoza.

Ntshingwayo ka Mahole Khoza was one of the Zulu military commanders who lead the 30 000 strong fearsome warriors. Yes, I’m a descendant of a great military commander. But before I get ahead of myself – on the flip side – back to the Sesotho speaking army; it turns out that to fight the Zulu warriors, Colonel Anthony Durnford handpicked black people from the Free State that would fight this war for him.

They were handpicked from the Amangwane, Amangwe, Abatlokwa and Abahlubi tribes. I’m a descendant of Abatlokwa. At the end of the Great Battle of Isandlwana there were only five survivors in the enemy camp; three whites and two black people; Jabes Molefe and Simion Khambule. According to oral history Jabes Molefe wrote many letters concerning this saga – they are in the army barracks museum in Wales. [I should visit]

So from this little history I know that I have a warrior’s blood running in my veins and have a writer’s blood. This somehow in my head explains why the women in my maternal side of my family are so strong. Khoza is my grandmother. Molefe is my grandfather. The memories I have of my grandmother are all about strength. And we all love writing and reading. Some are quick to pick a fight but most would rather fight in silence.

It excites me that I can find a connection with my own history to such a remarkable story. I’m sure if I knew my paternal history – I’d also find a powerful story. I bought the book, The Zulu. Such stories need to be told. We need to take pride in where we come from as a people. We are children of warriors, we can’t ignore that. Oral history is my favourite way of storytelling. 



The Zulu is a must watch if you want a fun way to learn about a very important part of South African history. And to also enjoy this amazing stage narrative by Ngema. The show is on until 3 November at the Market Theatre. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tokiso,
    Thank for you for a great review. I went to see The Zulu this past Tuesday with my friends. Oh my! A great 2 hours of storytelling. And yes the Battle of Isandlwana is such an important part our history that many do not know of. Personally it was a full history lesson and I’m glad I went to see it as left me wanting to know more about myself too as MoTswana and be proud of my heritage the same way the Zulu nation is of theirs.

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