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John Dunn was one of those improbable adventurers who litter the history of the British Empire, rivaling anything you'll find in fiction. The Scotsman was a hunter in South Africa who befriended Shaka's successor, King Cetshwayo, eventually becoming an adviser and then a Zulu chief, with land grants, 49 wives and 117 children (according to his will). In 2004, his extensive family of heirs--some 6.000 people--won a protracted court case to evict squatters from their "kingdom" on the Zulu coastlands.

That true story would make for an interesting enough book or graphic novel. But native South African Alan Brody updates his tale to the present day, perhaps so that he can make a statement about the conditions in his country of birth. Brad Mahon is a white NYC rapper who no one will take seriously because of his race. He decides to give college a try but is denied college aid when it is determined that he is heir to the Mahon (Dunn) fortune. Mystified by this unknown family background, he travels to Africa to investigate. There he becomes involved in the family and corporate politics about rightful ownership of the ancestral lands and the tussling over what to do about squatters on that land. He decides, a la Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, that what they really need to do is put on a show. A huge Kwaito talent show follows--featuring bands that combine hip-hop with traditional music--winning him the approval of the latest Zulu king. The book even comes with a cd featuring the music of Imbube, which you can listen to below:


The greedy are thwarted, the good triumph, and Brad is recognized as much for his previously ridiculed musicianship as for his bloodlines. One can't help noticing a bit of the old white savior subtext here, but it's so good natured and Mr. Brody is so enthusiastic about the music that would seem like quibbling. Taken on its own terms this is a hearet-warming and optimistic take on the country and people who've been so much in the news during the World Cup.




(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)

  

Websites:

Alan Brody Links:

    -BOOK SITE: White Shaka Boy
    -BLOG: White Shaka Boy
    -AUTHOR SITE: Alan Brody (Slide Share)
    -PUBLISHER SITE: Vizi Press
    -PROFILE: Brody Goes Beyond Black and White in Comic (Heather Murray, 6/13/08, Scarsdale Inquirer)
    -WIKIPEDIA: John Robert Dunn
    -John Dunn Foundation
    -ARTICLE: THE ZULUS' WHITE CHIEF; JOHN DUNN'S WILD HOME AND STRANGE CAREER (NY Times, March 11, 1883)
    -John Dunn of Zululand: The Man, The Legacy (Charles Ballard, Africa Travel Magazine)
    -ARTICLE: Zulu descendants of Scot who fathered 117 children win fight with squatters (Fred Bridgland, 15 Aug 2004, Daily Telegraph)
    -PROFILE: JOHN DUNN - A POWER BEHIND THE ZULU THRONE (Susan Nind-Barrett)
    -PROFILE: JOHN DUNN - The White Chief of Zululand (Visit Zululand)
    -ARTICLE: History repeats itself for family of white Zulu chief: Karl Maier reports from Mangete after tracing the fortunes of the descendants of a colourful 19th-century patriarch (KARL MAIER, 12 April 1994, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of White Shaka Boy by Alan Brody (Adam Klin Oron , BlogCritics)

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