1879: Zulus in the Steamweird Century

I’m currently doing the research for the Zulus chapter for the Fort Alice sourcebook. We had originally thought about outsourcing this chapter to a freelancer, but it’s pivotal to the book, culturally sensitive, and there’s specific things we want to include and exclude. As fussy and touchy as the chapter is going to be, we’re doing it in house. And it got me to thinking very seriously about what from the British Empire the Zulus would adopt, and what they would ignore or outright reject. How would a Zulu diplomat dress in 1880, versus how a cattle herder at a village might dress? And why? Knowing what customs and technology someone adopts from another culture tells you about what both cultures value, what the one wants to sell and the other to buy, but it doesn’t tell you why these things were assimilated.

So I’m looking at not just the culture of the Zulus in our world in the later part of the century, but at their values, what they accepted about the West, what they were forced to accept, and what got left on the side of the road along the way. How did the Zulus handle the appearance of Boojums among them? What does their magic look like and how does it affect their daily lives? What further changes were wrought upon their way of living and how they carry forward their traditions by the move to the Gruv? New land, new rules. Let me let this bit from the first draft of the chapter speak to some of this. No further comment will be necessary from my end – this voice has been heard.

Why do we Zulus not have steam lorries? Because we are not stupid.

To get a lorry, we have to buy it from you. We have to hire an engineer and a driver from you to operate it, or pay you to teach our people to do these things. The lorry will not run without the proper fuel, so we must buy coke from you. We must have a mechanic to keep it running. When it breaks, we must pay you for spare parts. Why should we pay and pay and pay when the animals we breed and the wagons we build will do the work we have? No, we have seen what you have done in the Raj, how you turn people into slaves in their own country. We will not buy your steam lorry and the shackles that come with it.

– Nomazizi KaMpande, farm administrator and wife to Prince Dabulamanzi, to a British firm representative

Tally Ho!