Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The confused Zulu.


There are a few bloggers whom I read religiously.

And there are many reasons why I read some blogs.

Some of them are for the fun of it, some other for more obvious reasons, and then the one or two that is neither for this or that reason, but purely because I enjoy the intellect, insight, and knowledge of the blogger.

Alex’s blog is one of those. He obviously is a highly intelligent person, with a passion for Africa.

He rarely comments on South Africa, but when he does, it usually is with a slant that I would never have taken, and because of that highly entertaining, and informative.

The below posting I just have to share with our readers.

Zuma goes Zulu on Zapiro... again!

There's no other way in explaining the BIZARRE renewed legal assault by Zuma against South African cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro aka Zapiro than by surmising that the South African president has gone Zulu on Zapiro.

I've previously said that by going after Zapiro, Zuma was on the path of bringing South Africa down at the level of Mugabe's Zimbabwe. As it happens, people are now being thrown in jail in Zimbabwe for calling Mugabe a little troll or a gnome.

But Zuma's (and incidentally Mugabe's) predicament, it now appears to me, is more fundamental and therefore congruent with the so-called "traditional" and "authentic" (Mobutu) ideational system whose many tenets Africans have still to individually and collectively shed before an elusive "African Renaissance" could possibly dawn on the continent.

Franz Fanon once theorized--and I'm loosely paraphrasing--that culture isn't some frozen meal left intact in the fridge that you go and retrieve at will any time you'd want to. Culture is a dynamic, ever-changing and flickering practice by a human group at any very present moment.

Treading along the same vein, Nigerian literary and cultural critic Abiola Irele once delivered a now-famous lecture aptly entitled "In Praise of Alienation."

In sum, culture is created or re-create and engineered willy-nilly by social formations or larger human institutions. Hence a global culture in which human rights, gender equality, gay and lesbian rights, democracy, etc, is now being created before our very eyes—though Claude Lévi-Strauss saw such a global cultural uniformity project as detrimental to cultural diversity.

In point of fact, South Africa is a progressive modern society that prides itself on its ethnic and cultural diversity. That's why it juridically integrates the many customary laws of its ethnic groups. Zuma can thus lawfully marry any number of wives as polygamy is part of Zulu cultural heritage whereas his Jewish compatriot Zapiro is paradoxically prevented by law from doing so.

In Zulu customs, as in many other African traditional cultures, the chief is a hallowed and aura-radiating individual to whom one owes obsequious respect and in whose presence one is awestruck. And in our traditional societies, making fun of the chief is unthinkable and even punishable by death. I was once told a legend on the lethal protocol at the court of King Chaka Zulu: if a notable made the unfortunate mistake of sneezing when the king was speaking, he was strangled on the spot!

In today's South African society, however, public figures are (and should be) fair game to cartoonists and late-night-show comedians; and Zuma, not being the Chaka, might be interrupted with impunity by the thundering sneeze of one of his cabinet ministers.

Zuma might have conflated two realms in this row with Zapiro: the modern multi-ethnic and centripetal realm that moors different groups into one South African nation, on the one hand; and, on the other, the centrifugal and ethnocentric realm into which individual groups find their specific identity.

And, as the president of a multi-ethnic state, Zuma ought to firmly stand with both legs on his country's centripetal realm. This is an argument made a while back by a South African lawyer about the serial marriages of Zuma...

The hope is that it'd soon dawn on Zuma that he'd confused two different genres. Zapiro isn't a Zulu tribesman. And even if Zapiro were a Zulu, he could still shed his tribal identity and diss the head of state in his cartoons without violating the constitution and the law.

This being said, how could a mere cartoon so terribly incense Zuma to the point of his running the risk of reminding his compatriots of some of his actions that amount to repeated rapes with aggravated circumstances of Lady Justice (like having parole granted on grounds of serious illness to a healthy millionaire friend of his who also happens to be his one-time creditor)? That's the kind of bafflement I recently heard Zapiro express in an interview with the BBC...

Well, we've also watched on TV frenzied people foaming at the mouth and engaging in the ritual burning of the Swedish flag and attempting to exact unspecified reparations from the Swedish state for the unspeakable crime of drawing prophets committed by one or two of Swedish cartoonist nationals. In the US, we saw Reverend Al Sharpton
gathering a mob for a demonstration against a New York tabloid that depicted Obama's stimulus plan as undecipherable signs smeared on paper by a chimp! (And without mixing genres, an ayatollah--just like a marshal in a Western movie keen on capturing a dangerous outlaw—had issued a death fatwa against a writer, with money to be collected by the free-lance bounty hunter who'd drop the felon!)

But having said from the outset that Zuma has gone native on Zapiro, a bizarre move by an incumbent head of state, there's only one place where I can find a beginning of an explanation: anthropology, the field of study of the "apparently irrational behaviour," as quipped British anthropologist Alfred Gell, citing the ethnographic baffling quandary of "my brother is a green parrot."

Gell gave this definition of anthropology while developing his "anthropological theory of art" (see his "Art and Agency").

Gell discovered that "art objects" (which he calls "indexes"), in indigenous societies, have no bearing on the way these objects are understood in Western institutionalized settings and circles (museums, academia, art collectors and aficionados, as well as the general public).

In indigenous settings, indexes are things around which social relations are mobilized. These indexes, in an animistic way, are even "extensions of persons" and have social agency.

"This agency," says Gell, "can be agonistic or defensive as well as beneficial."

These indexes have dynamic relations between themselves, between them and people, or between people through their proxy. (Well, this is an extremely reductionist take on Gell's complex theory.)

It seems to me that to Zuma Zapiro's cartoon has turned into an "agonist" index, with the nastiness of a Haitian voodoo doll. Hence his "apparently irrational behavior" in this matter.

Ultimately, the millions of rands in damages being sought by Zuma would never ward off the nefarious juju Zapiro's cartoon has become for him.

In Zuma's worldview, breaking the spell of the wicked cartoon can only be done according to the following script:

Mwalimu Saleh, a medicineman from Tanzania, is flown to South Afica to cure the ailing soul of Zuma. He's brought in his luggage the most potent body parts harvested on murdered albinos (genitals, anuses, and hearts). He stews these body parts. When the stew is ready, he tells Zuma: "You'll eat this stew four Fridays in a row. This powerful medicine will right your listing soul knocked off balance by the soul-eater Zapiro. Focus on Zapiro while you eat: you'll be nibbling at his soul till you slowly and painfully turn the loathsome cartoonist into a golem!"

7 Opinion(s):

Krokodil said...

Zuma is an African buffoon - therefore in a lot of company.

It will be an utter travesty should he win his case, and will go a long way to destroying the "freedom" of the press in SA, so hopefully he won't win - but I won't hold my breath just yet.

Let's face it though, it's the THICK black voter in SA who thinks a clown like Zuma is prez material - I state a stark reality; I'm not a racist.

Anonymous said...

Oh Krokodil, call a spade a spade, I am definately a racist! For this exact reason, so called humans such as Zuma and the rest of the useless feeders and great unwashed in SA and on this planet, tiny mustard seed so called brain. They are dispicable disgusting creatures, the lot of them.

Anonymous said...

http://alexengwete.blogspot.com/2010/12/zuma-goes-zulu-on-zapiro-again.html seems to have disappeared?

Angulus Calx said...

Now isn't that interesting...!!?

eduard said...

Now isn't that the reason why we call them Jack. Just Another Confused Kaffir.

Anonymous said...

The danger to South Africa is not Jacob Zuma but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of a Zuma presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Zuma, who is a mere symptom of what ails South Africa.

Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Jacob Zuma, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their President.

Krokodil said...

Very well said, anon 11:18, and articulated far better than myself.

As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't have to be this way but, unfortunately, is!