The 100-year-old story of South Africa’s first history book in the isiZulu language

This year marks the centenary of the publication in 1922 of Abantu Abamnyama Lapa Bavela Ngakona (The Black People and Whence They Came), the first book-length history of black people written in isiZulu. Part of the Nguni language group, there are an estimated 12 million isiZulu speakers in South Africa.

Its author was Magema Fuze, now seen as a major figure in the body of writings produced in African languages in South Africa, but one who remains too little known outside narrow scholarly circles.

The significance of the book is that he was the sole author and the first native speaker of isiZulu to publish a book; previous isiZulu books had been written and published by missionaries and colonial officials. The book was a radical act of publishing; it contained local histories of chiefdoms and kingdoms – from the Zulu to the Ngcobo – as well as theories about the Egyptian/Nubian origins of all black Africans.

Magema Fuze

Fuze was born in the mid-1840s in the newly formed British colony of Natal (today KwaZulu-Natal). In 1856 his father sent him to be educated at Ekukhanyeni, the mission station set up at Bishopstowe near Pietermaritzburg by the first Anglican Bishop of Natal, John Colenso. The young Magema learnt to read and write, and also trained as a printer. read more here.

Hlonipha Mokoena

This article was first published on "The Conversation".