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  • Des transpositions francophones du mythe de Chaka
  • Samba Diop
Des transpositions francophones du mythe de Chaka By Kahiudi Claver Mabana Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2002. 190 pp. ISBN 3-906769-40-2

This book retraces the transpositions of the myth of Chaka by a certain number of African francophone poets and playwrights. Most important, however, the author Kahiudi Claver Mabana focuses mainly on drama. Thus, the following works are discussed at length: "Chaka" (1956) by the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor; La mort de Chaka [The Death of Chaka, 1961] by the Malian Seydou Badian Kouyate; Les Amazoulous [The Amazoulous, 1968] by the Senegalese Abdou Anta Kâ; Amazoulou (1970) by Condetto Nénékhaly-Camara of Guinea-Conakry; Chaka (1971) by Djibril Tamsir Niane also from Guinea-Conakry; On joue la comédie [The comedy is on] by the Togolese Nestor Sénouvo Agbota Zinsou (who is featured in an interview at the end of Mabana's book); Le Zulu [The Zulu, 1977] by Tchicaya U Tamsi from Congo-Brazzaville; and finally, Chaka ou le roi visionnaire [Chaka or the Prophetic King] published in 1984 by Marouba Fall from Senegal.

One of the most salient points in this book is the stress put on the pioneering role played by Thomas Mofolo who published Chaka in 1910 in the Sotho language. According to Mabana, Chaka's Mofolo is ambitious and cruel; the hero regrets his crimes and has always aimed for the happiness of his people; in addition, Mofolo is hard in judging Chaka because of Mofolo's Christian education and hence his religious bias vis-à-vis African traditional religions and beliefs, also referred to as animism or paganism. In all the subsequent texts dealing with Chaka and published after Mofolo, we are presented with a multifaceted and complex Chaka as well as with a gamut of typologies bearing on the fictional character of Chaka. Thus, Mofolo provided a departing point for all the authors whose works are discussed by Mabana. Mofolo's Chaka was translated and published in French in 1939, and it is this translated version that will inspire Senghor and his colleagues.

An essential question posed by Mabana is: Why did these African francophone authors choose drama as a genre (instead of, say, the novel) in order to transpose the myth of Chaka? The answer can be found in the importance that History plays in the lives of the young African States that were decolonized in the late 1950s and consequently attained political independence and sovereignty. One may also speculate that the francophone authors chose drama because Chaka's story is a tragedy undergirded by intrigues, love, betrayal, and, finally, Chaka's assassination; what better genre to render all this than drama? As related by Mabana, we are in presence of a "theatre which finds its inspiration in history." It is at this juncture that we encounter an apparent contradiction as far as the choice of genres is concerned: Mofolo's Chaka is a novel! There is, however, a genre, I may say a field, that precedes modern drama and all the other genres, i. e., the traditional African epic in particular and African oral traditions in general. Needless to say that all the aforementioned francophone authors are conversant with African oral literatures and traditions that are embedded in their respective cultures and native languages. Thus, the apparent contradiction mentioned earlier is solved for the traditional African literary heritage serves as a pan-Africanist [End Page 178] conduit and it is therefore easy to comprehend why the myth of Chaka can afford to leave its original abode, Southern Africa, and travel as far afield as West Africa, all the way to Senegal by the shores of the Atlantic Ocean via Togo, Mali, Guinea, and Congo, and be exploited by writers who use the French imperial and colonial linguistic medium as a form of expression.

The next interesting and informative aspect of Des transpositions francophones du mythe de Chaka is the various and diverse uses that the francophone authors make of the myth of Chaka. Claver Mabana does not follow the chronological publication of the poem and plays; rather, he organizes his book in two sections...


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