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Hlonipha Mokoena Expounds on the Historical Definition of a Zulu Metrosexual

Magema FuzeNeelika Jayawardane of Africa is a Country attended the recent Distance and Desire symposium at NYU where Columbia University academic Hlonipha Mokoena, author of Magema Fuze: The Making of a Kholwa Intellectual, spoke about “Zulu metrosexuals” throughout history.

While European images of Africans have historically maintained “African as a static entity, aiding useful colonial notions of black Africa as a place that contacted no one, borrowed nothing, shared ideas with no others”, Mokoena pointed out that there were many Zulu metrosexuals, playing with style, “long before young men in New York put on ironic brainy spectacles and sported tight re-constructed versions of their grandfathers’ stovepipes to display their slim legs”. She names King Cetshwayo kaMpande (Shaka’s nephew) as an example.

Jayawardane illustrates what defines a historical perspective of Zulu men and women through the lens of European settlers and writes about Mokoena’s anthropological work where she describes “the manner in which Zulu identity was formulated”.

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about “Black Dandies” and the presence of new academic identities in US institutions. But anyone hear about Zulu Metrosexuals, and the ways in which the Zulu—men in particular—have similarly used dress to expand definitions of “Zuluness,” playfully unsettling colonial constructions and modern pressures alike? At the recent Distance and Desire symposium at NYU (that’s a link to my previous post on the symposium), my interest was piqued by one of the speakers, Hlonipha Mokoena describing the manner in which Zulu identity was formulated—via the aid of 19th century colonial-era photography, as well as imagined depictions of Shaka and his warriors.

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