African history distorted

ZULU King Goodwill Zwelithini is most probably not the only one who is fed up with the distorted portrayal of his ancestor, King Shaka (Shaka's airport statue removed, Sowetan, June 3)

ZULU King Goodwill Zwelithini is most probably not the only one who is fed up with the distorted portrayal of his ancestor, King Shaka (Shaka's airport statue removed, Sowetan, June 3)

Countless people have expressed outrage at the lowly depiction of one of the greatest warrior kings to emerge from Africa in the 19th century.

It is a serious indictment that it was only after the work was completed and mounted that people screamed bloody distortion and misrepresentation of Zulu history and heritage.

What makes it worse is that it took King Zwelithini to show that imagery of Shaka did not live up to what he signifies and means to Africans, especially the Zulus.

The continued appropriation and distortion of African history, arts, culture and heritage should make people very mad.

After all, history and heritage are the last bastions of African identity and self-ownership in the light of the compromises that have been made in religion, politics and the economy.

It is very strange that in today's world Africans can entrust the depiction and representation of their own heroes to people outside their communities.

Much as one respects the skills and talent of a sculptor of the caliber of Andries Botha, it is obvious that he lacks that intuitive connection and understanding of Zulu history and her people. It would be incorrect for anyone to think that I am calling for discrimination against certain artists or that they be deprived of opportunities.

But considering his history, identity and heritage, Botha should not have been at the top of the list of artists to portray such a revered figure.

If that was done for inclusion and diversity, he should have been monitored and guided by advisers, historians, artists and philosophers who hold a deeper insight into the meaning and significance of Shaka to Africans.

It is time that Africans woke up to claim and assert their own identity, history and heritage.

Sometimes artistic freedom of expression is taken for a right, not only to downplay the significance and meaning of African history and heritage, but to insult and undermine African icons.

The most famous example of this is how Nelson Mandela has been reduced to a dancing and smiling figure who dons so-called Madiba shirts and lived to please everybody except his own people.

This is in contrast to the image that Africans have of a man who not only was a radical, but was willing to die for the freedom and equality of his people.

While Africans are busy fighting for government tenders and contracts and have no interest in arts, culture and heritage, their history will continue to be told by outsiders to their experience.

Sandile Memela, Vorna Valley

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