Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Musical Monday - We Are Growing by Margaret Singana

I always wonder why there isn't more African themed fantasy fiction available. Part of the problem is the dominance of Western European settings for fantasy fiction, specifically Western European settings that draw upon a relatively short seven or eight hundred year time period stretching from roughly 700 A.D. to 1400 or 1500 A.D. That said, there is a notable amount of fantasy fiction that is drawn from other time periods, or which is set in East Asia, the Middle-East, or even the Americas. But there is precious little that uses African myth, folklore, or history as its inspiration which seems to me like a missed opportunity.

We Are Growing is the theme song for the ten part 1986 miniseries Shaka Zulu, which told the story of the life of the titular Zulu king. Shaka's story is a mixture of history and myth, recounting his life in mostly historical terms, but adding what seem to embellishments related to prophecies, witch doctors, and supernatural signs, although these are no more than the kinds of embellishments that seem to have been added to the stories of the lives of European historical figures such as Charlemagne and Alexander the Great. Transformative national figures seem to have a tendency to become larger than life when their stories are passed down. Shaka is probably the largest figure in the history of Southern Africa, but he isn't by any means the only notable one. But the sad fact is that most Americans don't even know of the existence of this miniseries, or much of anything about Shaka, the Zulus, or any of the rest of South African history, let alone its mythology and folklore. They might have heard the names of some battles like Isandlwana or Rourke's Drift, but that's the locations where African history intersects with the actions of Europeans, and placing Africans in the position of faceless opposition to heroic British soldiers, when by all rights they should have the opportunities to be heroes in their own stories.

And this only covers one small portion of South African history. Africa is huge, much more so than most people think because they are used to seeing Mercator projection maps of the world that don't show just how big it is. Not only is Africa huge, it is home to a myriad of different cultures, each with their own histories, mythologies, and folk traditions. There should be a hundred fantasy novels using some of these as a backdrop. Even if there were, there would be far fewer than the rich traditions of the continent deserve.

Previous Musical Monday: Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey
Subsequent Musical Monday: Magnificent Seven Theme by Elmer Beinstein

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