Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lost Kingdoms of Africa

I'm enjoying this new series of the BBC 4 programme Lost Kingdoms Of Africa. Gus Casley-Hayford explores the remnants of historical artifacts and living culture from a number of old African empires.

Its great to have a programme like this, reassessing African history and bringing up really interesting stories.

But there are some things that are a bit grating. Firstly if Casely-Hayford wants to really become a revisionist historian for maligned empires, he really could do better than employing the same tropes of TV documentary making that the establishment uses. -OK Gus, I know you're a cool dude in your Indiana Jones hat, but why bother pretending you speak isiZulu? (See pic above).

And secondly, in the film about the Zulu empire, the first part of the programme was dedicated to showing how brutal they were, how Shaka went around conscripting 14-year-old boys into the army. Even in the portrayals of him that were sympathetic, it was clear he was pretty brutal.

Discipline in Shaka Zulu's army was simple: Do what I say or die.

Any other group who stood in their way was obliterated. Whole ways of life were annihilated...

And yet when the British Empire comes and overpowers them with the Gatling Gun, they kill off "the glorious Zulu Empire"? Doesn't that sound like the type of classification you're trying to revise, Gus?

Lost Kingdoms of Africa is on BBC4

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