Highlighting Magema Magwaza Fuze, the first Zulu native to publish a book in Zulu language in 1922

Emmanuel Kwarteng October 19, 2022
Image via UKZN Press

Since the days of colonialism, when Africans’ knowledge and skills seemed to be ignored, it is clear that history books, which were mostly written by colonists, have not been kind to Africans. So, it was important for Africans to lead the way in writing books for Africans. Throughout Africa’s history, many Black thinkers, leaders, soldiers, freedom fighters, and other brave men and women have been erased and ignored on purpose.

Africans and their important contributions to human progress and critical events in history are mostly erased or degraded to insignificant occurrences that happened at the time. In his work, “Abantu Abamnyama Lapa Bavela Ngakona”, which translates, “The Black people and whence they came,” Magema Magwaza Fuze provided a book in Zulu for Zulu people.

As a member of a prominent Zulu family, Fuze was converted to Christianity at an early stage by Anglican Bishop John Colenso. He was born in the 1840s and moved to Colenso’s mission in Ekukhanyeni in 1856, where he was educated, converted to Christianity, and taught the art of printing. Despite not being an overt preacher, his printing activities still contributed to the spread of Christianity. While Colenso was in England, he used the printing press at Ekukhanyeni to print Bibles, and later, he opened his own printing shop in Pietermaritzburg. 

The original Abantu Abamnyama came out in 1922, and the English version wasn’t released until 1979. Written by a native Zulu speaker, it is considered a primary source for studying Zulu history and was the first book of its kind to be published. After contributing to several Zulu journals, Fuze left for Saint Helena in 1896 to serve as King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo’s secretary and didn’t return to Natal until 1898. 

Historians have written in-depth articles about Fuze’s book, focusing on how he brought his Christian beliefs into a Zulu society that had been turned upside down by internal and colonial wars, according to an article published in brill.com. Because of how he combined Zulu and Christian ideas, the Zulu and other Africans were able to fight for their freedom from the colonial government.

Remembering Fuze, whose life was remarkable despite its difficulties, is to rediscover the wealth of writing and thought that has come before this age, first in the service of Christianity and then in the pursuit of Africans’ freedom and their full inclusion in modernity. 

Sihle Zikalala reports that Fuze and another convert, William Ngidi, defied Colenso’s rule that each Christian man must have only one wife. In doing so, they also affirmed the cultural traditions of their African ancestors, which had been devalued and destroyed by colonialism. They went on to practice polygamy.

The people of KwaZulu-Natal and Africa as a whole owe Magema Fuze a lot of gratitude for how well he handled himself during the 19th century, which was one of the worst times for colonial violence and land theft against Africans in this part of the world. 

By 1922, Fuze had passed away. This year celebrates the centennial of Abantu Abamnyama and Fuze’s passing. Fuze criticized colonialism and the pain it caused Africans. We should honor him because he was a Kholwa scholar and one of the founders of African nationalism.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 19, 2022


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