The transculturation of Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka
Often, literary cultures from Anglophone Africa and Francophone Africa are treated as separate intellectual spheres. In this paper, I seek to understand the dialogue between these cultures. Thomas Mofolo’s novel Chaka (1925), drawn from oral lore and written in Sotho by a Sotho writer, is about the life and times of the founder of the Zulu nation, King Chaka. I will show that Chaka is a transcultural text, which is at the source of a complex intellectual relationship between Southern Africa and Francophone Africa within the literature on Chaka. In particular, I am interested in the way in which an African writer from Lesotho could have shaped another African writer’s ideas about the Zulu King—Senegalese poet Léopold Sédar Senghor—which, in turn, triggered a series of Africanist interpretations and rewritings. Through these multiple texts the impact of Chaka on African literature and ideology has been immeasurable. I will discuss Thomas Mofolo’s novel contribution to Chaka’s mythical status in Francophone African literature and Africanist ideology, mainly by way of the Negritude movement. In my analysis I postulate that the complexity of Mofolo’s text and its transculturation stems from the novel’s many forms/(trans)form(ations).
Keywords: Chaka, Francophonie, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Negritude, Thomas Mofolo, transculturation