Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Who is White Shaka?

White Shaka is a kind of Barack Obama-in reverse story based on an actual historical occurrence in South Africa in the mid 19th Century.

A white settler, already versed in the ways of the Zulu's was invited by the Paramount Chief, or King, to become a chief with a huge swath of land, his own army and 49 wives.

At one point, he controlled 10 of the 13 Chieftanships of Zululand.

White Shaka Trailer

In his time he created a great fortune, had a fallout with the King but flourished for years afterwards as a local chief. After he died, his wealth was lost and his 100+ mixed race descendants suddenly found themselves in a very uncomfortable position - not very welcome among full-blooded Zulus and not welcome at all among whites.

Many left for other provinces. Some went overseas - the lightest-skinned ones passing for whites in Europe and the U.S.

White Shaka is about one of them, in Brooklyn, NY who discovers his heritage and goes back to claim it only to find him immersed in the wars and great historical conflicts of Africa and the West, all played out in the stunning backdrop of Zululand (now KwaZulu).

Book Release Date April 19, 2008

New York Times 1882 - Historical Sources

Just about everything written about the original "White Shaka" is out of print. But recently, the New York Times added the original stories written about him in the 1880's to their archives.

There are other sources, including his own biography.

But they are long out of print.

The best recent source is the very popular American study of the Zulus, "The Washing of the Spears."

The bigger question is: how and why was this story so overlooked?

The answer has a lot to do with political and social constructs of South Africa - when the white racist, apartheid government ran the country, a story of a mixed race clan was technically illegal. In the post-apartheid, African Government, the mixed race story is still awkward.

But in a world of blending races and culture - this story is extremely relevant.

White Shaka, the Graphic Novel, brings it all up to date and ties together the historical sources with the current perspectives of life, culture and conflict in the New South Africa.