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BATTLE OF ISANDLWANA RE-ENACTMENT (article first published : 2004-01-13)

The fourth annual re-enactment of the 125 year-old Battle of Isandlwana takes place on January 24 2004 at the Isandlwana battlefield near the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Inquthu, 55 kilometres from Dundee. Presented by the KwaZulu Natal Arts & Culture Trust (KwaCulture), the commemoration has become a major tourist attraction in KwaZulu Natal. Last year, it drew about 7,000 local and overseas visitors.

The spectacle displays the re-enactment of the 1879 war when King Cetshwayo gathered his army and marched them to Isandlwana, a lonely forbidding place that even today seems heavy with the spirits of the departed.

A British patrol came upon the Zulu army, fired a volley of shots and fled whereupon 30,000 Zulu warriors attacked. Armed with spears, sticks and shields against a British army fully armed with rifles and guns, it is not surprising that the first lines of the Zulus were cut down by the guns.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, Commander Mkhosana KaMbundlana shouted to his men, ordering them to hold fast and reminding them that their king had not told them to run away. He was then hit by a British bullet and died. Inspired by his bravery, the Zulu regiments advanced ferociously and continued the attack until the British army was reduced to one man.

At the re-enactment, now titled The Celebration of the Zulu Heritage Festival, the Zulu Amabutho will demonstrate the legendary King Shaka’s military strategy of attacking an enemy using the buffalo horns formation. The simulated Isandlwana battle sees a confrontation between 300 amabutho (representing King Cetshwayo’s army) and the professional team of actors, the Dundee Die Hards (representing the British army). Amabutho have been assembled from Nquthu, Nongoma and Mahlabathini with 100 coming from each area.

Adding to the attraction of this year’s re-enactment is the staging of Mbongeni Ngema’s The Zulu which runs from January 20 to 24 at 19h00 at the Budabuphangwa Community Hall (Nquthu Hall). Tickets are R40pp. The production premiered at the African Renaissance Festival in Durban in 1999 and underwent a European tour before it returned for a highly successful six-month season at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg.

Preparations for this year’s commemoration have included a poverty alleviation programme in which 60 men and women at Nquthu and Nongoma were employed as costume manufacturers. They created shields, head gears, amabheshu and rubber spears which will be used by the amabutho who are taking part in the re-enactment.

Nquthu is a poverty stricken district and The Celebration of the Zulu Heritage Festival will also bring much-needed business to caterers, tour operators and the hospitality industry in the area.

This year’s events, including the re-enacting, the staging of The Zulu and the job creation activities have been sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. This support has also made possible the creation of an acting academy in Nquthu which will eventually produce performers who will take part in the festival. This year’s event has seen an increase in the number of performing participants from 250 to 350.

Royalty and dignitaries expected to attend include King Goodwill Zwelithini, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the national Home Affairs Minister, and Prince Gideon Zulu, KZN Minister of Welfare, Amakhosi, the Nquthu municipality officials, members of the diplomatic corps and captains of industry.

More information from KwaCulture on 031 207 5750 or fax 031 207 5752 or e-mail kwaculture@mweb.co.za




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