Jun 1, 2010

Henry VIII v. Nzinga Mbemba


One thing I love about three day weekends aside from an extra day to sleep in (theoretically) is the chance to catch up on TV shows I have been recording. I unfortunately didn’t get to the series finale of 24 but I did watch episodes of The Tudors

The Tudors is an excellent show on Showtime® depicting the life and times of Henry VIII, England’s infamous philanderer and chief architect of the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. I really like the show because it’s very well done, and I am a closet history buff who takes keen interest in dramatic interpretations of history.

As I was decompressing from my marathon session I got to thinking about other history mini-series I like, and a bulb in my head went on.

When is the last time I watched a show or mini-series depicting African history/civilization, outside of Egypt?

I initially drew a blank, until I remembered an episode of Modern Warfare on the History Channel that showed weaponry used by Shaka Zulu’s as compared to William Wallace’s. However, that was a small drop in the ocean as the episode only ran about 30 minutes.

Back to the drawing board! If memory serves me correct the last mini-series that I watched depicting pre-colonial African history (of the non-Egyptian fare) was Shaka on TV Zambia. Furthermore, this is quite possibly the only one I have ever watched too, granted I’ve seen it a dozens of times. It’s pathetic, I know!

So, why is that the case? I know more than I ever needed to about Henry VIII and his insatiable greed and the same goes for Cleopatra and her motley crew. And yet the supply and demand for more movies and shows on these subjects doesn’t seem to ebb.

Is there no room in the market from depictions of the Wene wa Mutapa or the Wene wa Kongo?

- The Wene wa Mutapa (Mutapa Empire) was the first major civilisation established in modern day Zimbabwe. It was ruled by a line of kings known as the Mwene Matapa. The empire encompassed the territory between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers, in what is now Zimbabwe and Mozambique, from the 14th to the 17th century. "The wealth of this empire was based on small-scale industries such as iron smelting, textiles, gold and copper, and agriculture. At its height this empire was part of a gold trade network that extended as far as China". It is associated with the historical site known as Great Zimbabwe.

- The Wene wa Kongo (Kingdom of Kongo) existed from roughly the late 1300s to the 1900s and was located in West Central Africa roughly at the mouth of the great Congo River. The ruler was known as the Mwene Kongo, or “Lord of the Kongo.” A once powerful and influential kingdom, its territories included parts of modern Angola, the Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

These are just two examples, there are many others. Africa has such as a rich and diverse cultural history, and I am just dying to see more of it make the leap from secondary school textbooks to the television screen. I want more people to know African civilisations existed before the Portuguese came onto our shores.

My ancestors weren’t cannibalistic, misogynistic, half-witted idolaters waiting for David Livingstone and his fellow missionaries to redeem their souls. They were skilled traders, scholars, warriors and hunters, etc and they deserve more than just a footnote in history.

So, are there any film makers out there willing to take on a new story? 

p.s.. Before you hit up Wikipedia - Nzinga Mbemba was the ruler of the Wene wa Kongo from 1509 – 1542 at the same time as Henry VIII of England.

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