Mapping Angola and Mozambique
Women on the Edge of a Nervous Empire in Paulina Chiziane and Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa
Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa’s novel Ualalapi (1987) famously deals with the nineteenth-century Emperor of Gaza, Ngungunhane, who was defeated and captured by the Portuguese during the campaign known as the Pacification of Gaza, which made a colonial hero of the Portuguese General Mouzinho de Albuquerque. In its postmodern take on the dominant Portuguese historiography of empire, Ualalapi has long since established itself as a Mozambican classic not least because it also offers a parallel, if veiled, critique of the more imperialistic, and totalitarian tendencies of Mozambique’s first, post-independence president, Samora Machel. As has been amply recorded elsewhere, Machel’s concept of nationhood drew heavily on the mythologies associated with Ngungunhane as Nguni resistance hero against the Portuguese as well as unifier, by subjugation, of neighbouring southern ethnic groups, most notably the Chopes.1
The most eloquent example of Machel’s use of Ngungunhane mythology concerns his decision in 1985 to celebrate ten years of Mozambican independence by disinterring the mortal remains of Ngungunhane, that had been buried in the Azores where the Portuguese held him captive in exile and bringing them back to Mozambique for reburial and celebration. In this sense, Machel’s famously southern, Changaan-dominated narrative of ← 199 | 200 → the nation found one of its most concrete and compelling mythical authorizations. Khosa’s novel clearly flies in the face of this uncritically heroic tradition as he draws out the multilayered ambivalences of Ngungunhane’s story, making him both tyrannical anti-hero to those he subjugated yet also a betrayed and therefore noble...
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