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.
Her story: Of the 1828 assassination of Zulu king, Shaka, history.com 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.