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King Shaka statue removed from new airport

The Statue of King Shaka at Durban's new airport is removed. (Rajesh Jantilal, The Witness) The Statue of King Shaka at Durban's new airport is removed. (Rajesh Jantilal, The Witness)

A statue of King Shaka, erected at Durban’s new King Shaka International Airport, has been removed after the Zulu Royal Household raised concerns that it was not a true reflection of the Zulu warrior king.

The statue, by Durban artist Andries Botha, shows King Shaka surrounded by Nguni cattle. At a media briefing called to address the controversy, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize denied that the Zulu Royal Household had complained that the statue made Skaka look more like a herboy that a warrior but conceded that some people had difficulty with the image of an unamed Shaka and others felt that the King should be be depicted with wild animals as he was known for hunting elephants. Mkhize announced that a task team of researchers and historians would be established to consider various modifications, including the inclusion of a speak and a shield and other animals.

This incident has generated debate about the representation of historical figures, in the absence of visual records as well about issues of identity and the nature and role of public sculpture in South Africa today.

A Facebook page, King Shaka by Andries Botha, has been created and carries a wide range of information and comments on this issue, as well as links to other news items. A comment on this site notes that, “The sculptor’s presentation of Shaka in philosophical contemplative pose, without his spear and shield ready for combative engagement, marks a major break with the often clichéd presentation of him as a ‘noble savage’ to a more complex and nuanced philosopher king. There is great justification for this pose and representation especially because it must have taken more than mere force of arms to weld together various groupings into a nation whose profound reach and legacy we still endure to this day.”

The incident has also been widely reported in print and electronic media. See for example:

The Mercury, 2 June 2010. Now Shaka statue must go
News 24.com, 3 June 2010. King Shaka statue removed
Cape Times, 3 June 2010. Statue to be removed because it ‘makes Shaka look like a herd boy’

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