"A PROPENSITY FOR SITTING ON STONES" We historians have over the years followed with fascination the debate on the character of Shaka King of the Zulus. I am sure you will therefore be interested in the following document that I have just discovered in the Killie Campbell Africana Library. (Uncatalogued MSS file SHAKA 17403). It is dated 14 November 1949 and written by the magistrate in Nongoma and goes a long way to explaining why so many prominent rocks in Natal are identified by the name of the first Zulu king. This is something that has fascinated me ever since, as a boy, I was taken for holidays to Shaka's Rock, on the north coast, and yet went fishing on Shaka's Rocks near Port Shepstone on the south coast.
The aforesaid Nongoma magistrate, was asked to comment on the authenticity of a large stone in Stanger (which he had just had rolled to the vicinity of the Shaka memorial) as one on which Shaka had sat. The magistrate, who had noted that many rocks "have been pointed out all over the country as having been sat upon by the king at one time or another", spoke with Zulu authorities on the subject who confirmed that Shaka was "fond of sitting on stones".
He then gave an example of this "propensity for sitting on stones" which is new to me and I am sure you will find significant. This concerns the great Cave Rock on the southern side of Durban Bay, a well-known beauty spot until destroyed by dynamite in the Second World War for fear that it might be too obvious a landmark to passing U-boats. Apparently, when staying at his Congella military homestead, near present day KE VIII hospital in Durban, Shaka would march his men across the Bay (at low tide of course) to the ocean and order them to fight "the incoming waves as they broke against the rocks. As can be imagined, these extraordinary exercises were not only strenuous but also not without danger, and they were watched with obvious interest and enjoyment by Shaka from a seat of vantage on the Cave Rock itself."
Apart from being of intrinsic interest, don't you think this new evidence might be a key to understanding the rise of Shaka and the mighty Zulu Empire? Rather than searching for old trade routes, ivory or slaves, evidence of droughts, surely we should map the sites of prominent rocks? I am increasingly convinced that Shaka's objective in expanding his empire was an ineluctable search for new stones on which sit.
I am already finding this line of investigation fruitful and have
begun researching evidence on changes in Zulu warriors' dress at this
time which I find very suggestive and I think might be connected.
Professor and Head of Department, Department of History
University of Natal
DURBAN SOUTH AFRICA
Tel +031 260 2620
fax +031 260 2621
I think we might add some intertextual elements to this question of stone-sitting and ocean-fighting. Rider Haggard's *King Solomon's Mines* in places takes elements from Anglo-Saxon history (the venomous Bead, per Yeats and Sellars) and places them in the mouths of Kukuana elders, thus projecting an equivalence of the formative period of English history with Zulu history. Can we read here a further connection with the invasive king Canute who ordered his courtiers to hold back the tide? Can British historians/archaeologists/tour guides tell us if the stones on which Cnute sat in this incident have been identified and/ or commemorated? And going further back, we might recall that the Roman Emperor Caligula had *his* troops in turn attack the English channel, and he later celebrated a triumph for his victory, parading a collection of sea-shells as proof of his prowess.
--- "Jeff. Guy" wrote:
I am already finding this line of investigation fruitful and have begun researching evidence on changes in Zulu warriors' dress at this time which I find very suggestive and I think might be connected.--- end of quoted material ---
Any macassar oil connections?
The subject of the first Zulu emperor also holds endless fascination for me...oral and written poetry on him was central to my Ph.d dissertation almost a decade ago and I have done a couple of papers on the subject since then. I,m therefore deeply intrigued by the matter of his love for sitting on stones, but surely you cannot be serious in your concluding remarks: "I am increasingly convinced that Shaka's objective in expanding his empire was an ineluctable search for new stones on which [to] sit"? Please tell me you are not.
Dept of English
Univ. of Botswana.