“The Next Best Substitute”? Vundlazi, ruler of the Izinkumbi, gender and political control in southernmost Natal, 1840–1890

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Seminar Date
December 2, 2009
This paper details the life of Vundlazi, a female chief in colonial Natal whose life has been largely overlooked by scholars, and asks how gender was imbricated in the chiefship of the Izinkumbi of southern Natal from 1830 to 1890 during and after the period in which the Natal frontier “closed” on the history of her tribe’s establishment by the Fynns, and Natal became a place in which the Izinkumbi chiefship negotiated with a colonial government in advancing their interests. Identifying important events during her long leadership -- her seizure of cattle for Theophilus Shepstone in 1849, her mustering of troops for the ill-conceived “Zulu Contingent” of 1851, her approach to politically subversive indunas in 1860, and other important points -- the paper draws a picture of the difficulties she faced and the indications that survive of how what importance her gender may have had in her rise to power, and how her leadership was viewed by colonial observers, by herself, and by her followers and detractors.
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