Justice and the Zulu Heroic Ideals in Mazisi Kunene’s "Emperor Shaka the Great"
The discourse engendered within this scholarly examination was stimulated by Kunene's perspective on the ascendancy of heroism above justice. This paper explores the legendary deeds of Shaka who embodies the archetype of the Zulu epic hero, aiming to define the essence of Zulu heroic ideals. It argues that justice serves as the moral guide, directing the course of Shaka’s heroic endeavours. The study adopts a qualitative research method, since the selected text is narrative data. Theoretical inspiration that illuminates Shaka’s deeds is derived from Joseph Campbell’s theory of the hero’s journey, the mythos of adventure where the hero undertakes a journey to confront a formidable obstacle, wins in that confrontation and returns home with boons. Shaka’s journey from obscurity to legendary status as a warrior and leader reflects many aspects of the hero's journey, making Campbell's theory a relevant and insightful lens through which to examine Shaka’s heroic character. The study reveals that the poem's depth lies in its depiction of Shaka’s commitment to justice through his efforts to establish a more structured and equitable society, his promotion of meritocracy, his military discipline, and his protection of the Zulu people. The study concludes that contrary to the claim of Kunene that heroism is a higher virtue than justice in Zulu society, justice emerges as the quintessential bedrock upon which Zulu heroism is built, as those who act heroically are those who uphold the principles of justice that sustain the harmony and dignity in Zulu society.
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