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Tshaka devised innovative tactics and weapons to establish nineteenth-century Zulu dominance of Africa and increase his control over a population that began at 1,500 and grew to more than 250,000.

After two years in Victoria Falls, I moved this year to Bulawayo where I was born all those years ago, a city founded on the kraal of Lobengula, a local chieftain linked by bloodline to Tshaka Zulu. I am running a small hotel here, in a historic building dating to 1935. Portraits of the controversial founder Cecil John Rhodes are everywhere in this building, but my take on him is that he was an extraordinarily talented man locked into the mindset of his time. Development was in the name of, and firstly for the benefit of, the motherland; if the locals learned a thing or two along the way, that was all to the good.

It is only when I sit back down and look around that I realise what I have done. The white people have already gasped, and a shocked voice has already said, Oh my God. Heads have been shaken and eyes have widened in disbelief. A few hands have already flown over mouths, and silence has descended. It stays in the air like a stain, until this booming voice, which I quickly recognise as Tshaka Zulu’s, shouts from near the door, where he is seated:

This is our first introduction to Tshaka Zulu: He is dressed up in his traditional Zulu regalia, singing a song to the bride. Darling thinks he looks beautiful, even though “his body is all wrinkled with age”, and his arm-bands are around “thin arms”:

The Birth Of Shaka Zulu Free Essays - Free Essay …

….it’s like he is singing to someone lost on the highway when the bride is just seated right before him, smiling like this is the best song ever. When the song finishes everyone applauds, and Tshaka Zulu beams with pride. It is his thing to perform at weddings and wherever people from our country are holding events, and looking at him at it you would never think there was something wrong with him, that he was really a patient at Shadybrook. [p.178]

History of Shaka (Tshaka ) , King of the Zulu - Bulawayo …

It is only when I sit back down and look around that I realise what I have done. The white people have already gasped, and a shocked voice has already said, Oh my God. Heads have been shaken and eyes have widened in disbelief. A few hands have already flown over mouths, and silence has descended. It stays in the air like a stain, until this booming voice, which I quickly recognise as Tshaka Zulu’s, shouts from near the door, where he is seated:

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Tshaka Zulu has become significant in the story. Darling’s attitude towards him is different from her responses to other people. He seems, at least to her, vaguely to mean something important. The language he, she and Fostalina speak together in the care home is not named; what is important is that Tshaka Zulu needs to talk in his mother tongue and be understood. We are not given any historical reference to his great name-sake, Tshaka Zulu the warrior-king of the Zulus4, who faced in battle the army of the British Empire. Darling’s Tshaka Zulu is a migrant in America, for whom Fostalina and perhaps Darling have a duty of care as his schizophrenia worsens. He embodies a great irony: dressed up as a loud Zulu warrior for weddings and receptions, he has thin arms and wrinkled skin. He has pictures of great modern Africans in his room in a care home, in front of which his fantasies are acted out. He is not a parody. It is a mark of Bulawayo’s skill as a writer that he has become an emblem of what the modern twenty-first century is doing to traditions that have less and less place in the lives of those historically connected to them. We share Darling’s sympathy for him. However, in Darling’s world, this Tshaka Zulu, in Shadybrook, is contradicted by a real-life warrior: fat boy TK, now an American GI fighting – and possibly dying – in Afghanistan.


The profile and history of Tshaka King of the Zulu (a.k.a Chaka, Shaka), he was one of the greatest leaders of his time. His power affected the whole of Southern Africa . He ruled at one of first recorded towns known as Bulawayo

This is our first introduction to Tshaka Zulu: He is dressed up in his traditional Zulu regalia, singing a song to the bride. Darling thinks he looks beautiful, even though “his body is all wrinkled with age”, and his arm-bands are around “thin arms”:

With nothing more than five hundred men and women, Mzilikazi departed from King Tshaka's Zululand, by this time Mzilikazi was already had three sons, but none of these could be the heir to the throne.

….it’s like he is singing to someone lost on the highway when the bride is just seated right before him, smiling like this is the best song ever. When the song finishes everyone applauds, and Tshaka Zulu beams with pride. It is his thing to perform at weddings and wherever people from our country are holding events, and looking at him at it you would never think there was something wrong with him, that he was really a patient at Shadybrook. [p.178]

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We meet Tshaka Zulu once more, suddenly, in Darling’s narrative. Uncle Kojo, now called Vasco da Gama because he can’t stop driving around the countryside trying to deal with his depression over TK, has picked up Darling from the supermarket where she now works. Fostalina, on the mobile, urgently directs them to Shadybrook. They find Tshaka Zulu outside the care home, warrior-garbed and armed with a lethal-looking spear, and an assegai which he hands to Darling who he sees as his fellow-warrior. Confused, she half goes along with his reality, though his behaviour in the street is full of threat and menace. Kojo cannot understand what Zulu and Darling are saying; at the same time he is hammering on the door of the now locked-down care home. Tshaka, it seems, is going to his namesake’s war with the imperial British army in the leafy and silent suburban streets of middle America:

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When he starts down the driveway, I follow at a distance, Uncle Kojo behind me. He is saying things but I am not listening. Tshaka Zulu is rushing, his animal-skin skirt swooshing, the colourful feathers on his head dancing. Then he breaks into a run, and I notice, with horror, that he is running toward this pizza guy who has just parked at the neighbour’s house and is getting out of his car, a pizza in hand. I’m already seeing a spear ripping the guy’s guts, blood all over. I drop my own spear and look at Uncle Kojo, who is yelling and flailing his arms. The pizza guy looks up just as the sound of sirens fills the air. I don’t know who called the police or when….