She’s Royal #5

Preamble: From the Dahomey royal from last week’s post, we now move to a Zulu royal.  I grew up hearing about King Shaka (Zulu) but never knew anything about his mother, or his kingdom really; he was more myth than man. But, he is a man with a mother. And she’s the latest feature in this #wcw #womancrushWednesday She’s royal series that I’m doing as my note to Hollywood.  Preamble-post-note: I am aware that some of the women featured do less than noble things, and some are quite violent, but they’re not presented here because they’re angels (though some are, in fact, quite heroic and each is fierce in her own way) but because they’re lesser known (at least in the west) royals with interesting life stories; and Hollywood, after its fixation on certain popular European royals, some of whom also have blood on their hands, some of whom are also not angels, might want to give them a looksee. Just to mix things up a bit.


Nandi (Queen Mother of Shaka, King of the Zulus)

Her story: Of the 1828 assassination of Zulu king, Shaka, writes “In 1827, Shaka’s mother, Nandi, died, and the Zulu leader lost his mind. In his grief, Shaka had hundreds of Zulus killed, and he outlawed the planting of crops and the use of milk for a year. All women found pregnant were murdered along with their husbands. He sent his army on an extensive military operation, and when they returned exhausted he immediately ordered them out again. It was the last straw for the lesser Zulu chiefs: On September 22, 1828, his half-brothers murdered Shaka. Dingane, one of the brothers, then became king of the Zulus.”

Nandi’s life which began in 1760 was quite interesting, and any chapter would make for a dramatic self-contained tale but the full span of it is epic. Long story short, Nandi, got knocked up by a Zulu chieftain during uku-hlobonga “a form of coitus interruptus allowed to unmarried couples”. There were all sorts of pregnancy and paternity denials, but eventually Nandi and her son Shaka found a place in his father’s household, for a time. The marriage was reportedly problematic for a few reasons, including being interclan, and Nandi eventually re-settled elsewhere with Shaka and his sister – bad treatment and bullying arguably forging a special bond between them. When Shaka became king, Nandi had some influence – “it is said that Nandi was a force for moderation in Shaka’s life, suggesting various political compromises to him rather than violent action.” (Source) The stories surrounding her death are confusing and contradictory – one story being that Shaka himself killed her after she permitted a member of his harem to leave with his son (because he might kill her for getting pregnant and bearing an heir who could then take his throne?). In any case, after her death, Nandi had the burial rituals befitting a Nguni chief and there was murder and mayhem amidst a year long period of enforced mourning. Soaps can’t manufacture this kind of drama.

Possible casting: Danai Gurira.

Next: A queen who reportedly has her roots right here in Antigua.


She’s Royal #3

Preamble: This is the 3rd alternative royal women post in my #womencrushWednesday #wcw series…just giving Hollywood some ideas. She follows Royal #2, Nora Baker. To see all the royal women, search ‘she’s royal’ (or some variation of that) to the right.

She’s Royal #3:


Queen of Sheba (Makeda)

Her story: I have to admit watching Neil Gaiman’s American Gods rekindled my interest in the Queen of Sheba, whom I hadn’t thought about since Bible school days. Specifically, the goddess Bilquis who is meant to be the Queen of Sheba, the self-same one from the Judeo-Christian Bible where she meets with King Solomon – arriving with a great caravan and many riches – drawn by his reputed greatness. She tests him and he impresses her. “Your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had heard,” she reportedly said (1 Kings 10:7). Not much to go on, but movies have been built from less. And researchers have dug up more; a key source being Ethiopian scripture. That’s her land (disputed, as Arabian texts peg her as a Yemeni queen) – Ethiopia; her name is Makeda, she lived between the latter half of the 11th century and approximately 955 BCE, and her lasting gift from her time with Solomon was her son Ebna Hakim (according to sources). There is more re his journey to Israel and speculation that the Ark of the Covenant traveled back to the land of Sheba with him. On his return, his mother gave up the crown to him and he ascended as Menilek l. But I’m more interested in the story of this connection between his parents (there’s some suggestion that there was coercion in the seduction so I hesitate to call it a grand love story though it is reputed that the Song of Solomon testify to that love). There’s more to her story, of course; and versions of that story have been told including on film several times. One purpose of re-imagining her on film could be reframing the narrative. “European authors and artists extend these subordinating narratives that show Solomon as not only the political superior of the Queen of Sheba, but also her spiritual senior and initiator. But now they add a racial distortion, whitening her … We’re now at a moment where women of African descent are re-envisioning who the Queen of Sheba may have really been, beyond the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scriptural traditions, within her original cultural context.” (source)

Possible casting: Viola Davis…or, swinging wildly in another direction, Solange Knowles…or Queen Sugar’s Rutina Wesley.

Next up: ‘God speaks true’.