". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, May 20, 2011

*Shaka Zulu* All Singing, All Dancing, All Fighting, All Ten Hours

Shaka Zulu (1986) South African television 10 episode series, viewed online from netflix. I started watching this in 'the House' and concluded watching here on the nights after the day's bending, twisting, turning, etc. to put the Apt. back together left me wiped out.

The series follows the arc of this leader’s life, which is that of the Cambellian ‘hero’s journey,’ similar to entertainment portrayals of King Arthur and Genghis Khan, among others -- even Roots (1977), which is founded in all kinds of mendacity, even plagerism -- complete with magical weapons, prophecies of future greatness for self and the kingdom, occult and magical influences, spells and curses, formative mothers, hidden fathers – and here we have the Asian-Greek commonality of killing the father.  Have we noticed the score? Why, yes, for there is no time the score is not overwhelming.  It is all dancing all singing all fighting or all three at once all the time, all of which need to be scored. Soaring South African voices, gorgeous drumming, and some of the dumbest lyrics this side of "We Are the World."

We have a cornucopia of bare black bodies, naked breasts and buttocks. No episode is complete without barbaric African brutalities committed by and upon each other. There’s an endless supply of gorgeous costumes of fur and feathers and beads.

What we don’t see is who provides the massive amounts of feathers, furs and beads. who works them into headresses, robes, sleep skins, clothes of all these soldiers and nobility. Who teaches all these musicians how to drum, how to dance, what to sing, when and where? What is the economy of this kingdom? Who farms, when do they farm? Is this a kingdom that lives entirely by conquest, with the invaders the nobility, and the conquered their slaves doing all the work of provision and services? The children? In this series the impression is that the Zulu nation does nothing but praise dance and sing to Shaka, dress extravagantly, commit atrocities on each other, and go to war. There is no trade, herding, agriculture or hunting.

All this war is accelerated and enabled by English gentlemen, who manage to bring Shaka down, via Jesus (King of Kings -- Messiah, Immortal) and the Bible -- and hair dye! (African male vanity, don't you know.) Among the English are the superiorly educated (the doctor and the linguist) and a warrior as fierce in obession as Shaka (the English officer).

It is entertainment on the extravagant scale of Cecil B. DeMille spectacle.  In terms of history and culture, though, with the slightest of reflection, we feel we missed something. 

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