“Faced with the might of the superior army, our heroic warriors knew no fear. They shed rivers of blood to remain free in the land that was undoubtedly theirs.” – Author Themba Mthethwa.
I think it’s very easy to forget from movies like Zulu and Zulu Dawn that the British were an invading force in South Africa in the late 19th century. Not for the first time, nor the last, an indigenous people were written off and assumed to be nothing more than uncivilised locals who would be easily conquered.
It’s easy to forget that the Zulus were simply saying no to an ultimatum given to them by Britain. In December 1878 Sir Bartle Frere, British high commissioner for South Africa, issued a ultimatum to King Cetshwayo kaMpande of the Zulu Kingdom that was designed to be impossible to satisfy. The Zulu were, among other things, to dismantle their “military system” within 30 days and pay reparations for alleged insults.
Needless to say war was declared. If the Zulu kingdom would not surrender peacefully then they would be forced to.
As I painted the Zulu command for this project I couldn’t help but wonder what my response would be if another nation decided they wanted Australia for their own. What my response would be if they sent me an ultimatum. I can tell you right now that I would’ve reacted exactly the same way as King Cetshwayo did.
Lead by Prince Dabulamanzi KaMpande, half brother of King Cetshwayo KaMpande, an impi (regiment or body of armed Zulu warriors) of between 3000 and 4000 Reserve Zulu warriors headed to Rorke’s Drift in what was basically a mop up mission. Clear off all the British in the area. Dabulamanzi had been at the battle of Isandlwana but there hadn’t been much participation.
Dabulamanzi (meaning The one who conquers waters) was loyal to his half brother and his family through and through and was an instigator in getting King Cetshwayo restored in 1883.
Later in life he became the focal figure of anti-British sentiment in the aftermath of the war.
He was shot and killed at the age of 47/48 after getting into a scuffle with a group of Pro-British Boers.
As far as other commanders for the Zulus at the battle of Rorke’s drift I couldn’t find any solid information. All I could really find was that “commanders” were used to observe impis and signal movements. To distinguish between different impis the shields were slightly different. Some showing more white and little black others showing more black and/or tan. More on this when I get to painting the warrior ranks.
As I couldn’t find any specific names I’ve decided to, respectfully, name them myself in honour of the Zulus.
Unsondo (Zulu God of Thunder and Earthquake)
Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo (who was actually the son of King Cetshwayo)
Misuzulu (who is the current reigning Zulu king)
I am still thoroughly enjoying this project in every way. From painting to researching.