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King Cetshwayo kaMpande led his nation to the historic victory over the British army in the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. This year marks 140 years since the battle took place. It was one of the battles of the Anglo-Zulu War; one of the decisive wars of resistance against colonialism and land dispossession.
The story of the life and times of King Cetshwayo is told in a musical theatre format. It is written and directed by the award-winning playwright and director Mpho Jerry Pooe, who worked with musical directors Mbuso Khoza and Sandile Mpungose. King Cetshwayo – the Musical highlights the key events of the Anglo-Zulu war, such as the victory at Isandlwana, the king’s arrest and banishment, his visit to Queen Victoria in England, and the celebration of the Zulu nation on defeating the British soldiers. The story is told through multimedia, song, vibrant dance and dialogue. The musical notably features Mxolisi Ngubane (as King Cetshwayo), Nhlakanipho Maphumulo, Xolani Henema, Stella Zuma, Msizi Shezi , Bazini Msomi and many more.
King Cetshwayo was born in 1826 to Mpande who was King Shaka’s half-brother. Due to the turbulence and uncertainties that engulfed the Zulu kingdom and threatened its existence, King Mpande declared Prince Cetshwayo his successor very early on in life, which was unusual for a king to do. As Cetshwayo grew older, he began to undermine his father’s authority and, following the bitter rivalry against his half-brother Mbuyazi which culminated in the Battle of Ndondakusuka in 1856, Cetshwayo assumed control of the kingdom.
By the time Mpande died, he was king in name only as Cetshwayo had long taken over the decision making. The British grew worried about his rapid rise and the consolidation of Zulu military power. They planned to disempower him and dismantle the Zulu military system by issuing the infamous Ultimatum in 1878 imposed by the Natal colonial government’s Sir Theophilus Shepstone. The rejection of the terms of the Ultimatum and the failure of diplomatic efforts led to the outbreak of the Anglo-Zulu war in January 1879. Cetshwayo reportedly died on 8 February 1884 from a heart attack or suspected poisoning and was buried at Nkandla forest. By the time he passed away, the Zulu kingdom had lost its independence and had been divided into 13 chiefdoms, ruled by chiefs appointed by the colonial government.
Pooe says: “The public and young people must come and see Africans being portrayed in a positive light as evidenced in the epic victory of King Cetshwayo’s regiments against Queen Victoria’s well-armed troops. It is important for them to know and understand the history of South Africa as narrated by South Africans themselves.”
The internationally acclaimed musical has been on tour, including a stop in Wales (where it premiered in 2017) before a run at Durban’s Playhouse Company in August this year. Wales is significant in the history of the Anglo Zulu War because most of the British soldiers who fought in the war came from the Welsh town of Brecon. The production is presented by the Wushwini Pan African Centre for Arts, Culture and Heritage production company, in association with The Playhouse Company, Ethekwini Municipality-Arts and Living Cultures and KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture.
Tickets for King Cetshwayo – the Musical are set at R100 for learners if booked through the State Theatre Sales / Ambassadors and R120 for adults, at Webtickets – online or over the counter at any Pick n Pay store countrywide.