11/31 – Shaka Zulu

11/31 – Shaka Zulu

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That Friday evening in late October, 1986, was remarkable for several reasons. My family had got its first ever microwave. I’d come home crying because I’d been stung on the earlobe by a bee. And the first episode of the BBC series “Shaka Zulu” was on ZDF.

I probably didn’t understand much of it. It was a lot of politics, my ear hurt like no man’s business, and everybody was taking turns comforting me and wildy microwaving things in between.

Still, we tuned in again the following weeks, and that was when I fell madly in love with a (rather imperialistic) South African leader. Or at least with actor Henry Cele. (Around the same time, I was really taken with German/Senegalese actor Charly Muhamed Huber, which led my mother to slowly get used to the idea of a black son in law somewhere down the road. At least she no longer had to worry I might try and marry a rabbit. The eventual son in law then was neither black nor furry, but she was still in for years of her daughter fangirling over African warlords and generals.)

I got the book for Christmas, and learned every bit of Zulu that I could. I tried to draw Shaka back then, too, but at eleven, I just couldn’t capture his likeness in any way, so I gave that up as a bad job. But Shaka has remained a part of my life that I still remember fondly, even more so when we found, this year, that the entire series was on Netflix. We binged it with the kids – who weren’t quite as excitable about it as I’d been, but then, few people are as excitable as I am – but they were fascinated too, and the series has aged remarkably well for something from the eighties.

In Germany among my generation, Shaka Zulu is still pretty popular. In 1986, there were three TV programmes, so that was the time when everybody talked about last night’s shows. (Something that only Game of Thrones has managed in the last decade or so.) Funnily, most Germans over forty can still strike up the main theme “Bayeeeete, Nkosi!”) when you mention the series.

Talking of Game of Thrones – I’ll think I’ll go for that tomorrow!

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