On our recent trip to South Africa, Cathy and I dropped in to visit our good friends John and Dawn. Given my own fascination with Zulu history, I couldn’t resist getting John to pose with me in front of his rare collection of 19th century etchings.
Flexing their imperial muscles, Queen Victoria’s regiments campaigned across much of Africa and Central Asia during the latter part of the 19th century. Riding into battle alongside the Lancers, Hussars and Carabiniers were the doughty war correspondents: amongst some of the most fêted celebrities of that generation. Less famous, but no less important, were the artists and photographers who captured the images of war. Where cameras were just too bulky to lug into battle, historical scenes like these were first captured as hastily drawn sketches. Later, probably over a gin or two, the shell-shocked artists would recreate those scenes in these magnificently rendered etchings. Their artwork would eventually make it onto the pages of the tabloids and broadsheets across the British Isles.
The large centerpiece displayed between us depicts the Battle of Ulundi, fought on July 4, 1879. Still smarting from the massive humiliation suffered at Isandhlwana five months earlier, the British marched on the Zulu capital, Ulundi, to exact their revenge. After the battle, the defeated Zulu King Cetshwayo was arrested and exiled, bizarrely, to Britain.
I cover a part of this epic chapter of South Africa’s history in my soon-to-be-released book ‘Izwi Lami—My Voice.’