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OpenLearn Live: 28th April 2016

Updated Thursday, 28th April 2016

The chieftan who shaped the Zulu nation. Then more learning across the day.

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Bringing learning into the heart of your world, it's OpenLearn Live. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we caught up with All In The Mind and discovered the cost of the norovirus

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Monkey shame

In our ongoing unofficial series on animal consciousness - do monkeys get self-conscious? Radio 4's Digital Human asked his very question:


Do octopus have consciousness?

The dog beyond the mirror

Manta rays can recognise themselves

Pregnant in public

Writing for Sociological Images, Lisa Wade recalls how recently in Western culture that pregnancy was something to be kept hidden:

Almost 20 years later, in 1970, a junior high school teacher was forced out of the classroom in her third trimester on the argument that her visible pregnancy would, as Cramer puts it, “alternately disgust, concern, fascinate, and embarrass her students.” So, when Demi Moore posed naked and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair just 21 years after that, it was a truly groundbreaking thing to do.

Read the full article: When Did It Become Allowable to be Pregnant in Public?

Try our free course Challenging the Biomedical model of childbirth

I am an airport: King Shaka

This week, we're exploring some of the stories behind people who have received the accolade of having an airport named after them. Yesterday, we met Francisco Bangoy. Today, we're checking in at King Shaka International Airport.

King Shaka International Airport Creative commons image Icon Ride Your City under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license

On South Africa's Dolphin Coast, La Mercy's King Shaka International Airport opened in 2010, replacing Durban International Airport. It's won the prize for 'best international airport serving under five million customers' on three occasions - including this year, when it just edged out London City. Not just a passenger airport, King Shaka is also a key component of the Dube Tradeport logistics hub.

When the airport was first announced, and through construction, everyone seemed to assume it would end up opening under Shaka's name. There was some surprise when a formal process to find a name was instigated, but the bureaucratic hoops ended with King Shaka as the final outcome.

So, who was King Shaka? Shaka, or Shaka kaSenzangakhona, or Shaka Zulu was perhaps the man most responsible for the creation of a strong Zulu nation - a nation which survived his reign, and then survived enormous military bombardment.

King Shaka Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Attributed to James King from Nathanial Isaacs’ "Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa"

The image above is possibly the best one we have of Shaka, but that's a slim best - it was drawn by a European artist who had never met the man, working on others' descriptions.

Born sometime around 1787, Shaka came with his own creation story:

In the late 18th century, the Zulus were an obscure Nguni tribe of some 1,500 people, ruled by a petty chief named Senzangakhona. In either 1786 or 1787, he met Nandi, a woman of the eLangeni tribe, while traveling and the two engaged in the Nguni institution of uku-hlobonga, designed to release sexual tension among the young without conception resulting. However, both partners broke the rules. Once it was discovered that Nandi was pregnant, a messenger was dispatched, bearing a formal indictment against the young Zulu chief. He replied insultingly that the pregnancy no doubt was false and due to iShaka, an intestinal parasite known to cause menstrual irregularity. Some months later, the eLangeni elders requested Senzangakhona to come and collect his woman and her ‘iShaka,’ which he reluctantly did. A corruption of the intestinal parasite’s name became the less-than-flattering name Senzangakhona gave to his newborn son-Shaka.

Uku-hlobonga is meant to be a non-penertrative form of intercourse. Clearly, in this case, it wasn't.

It wasn't the greatest of starts in life - and got worse when Senzangakhona banished mother and child from his court, but eventually the pair were given sanctuary by Dingiswayo. Strong and brave, Shaka rose in Dingiswayo's army, and learned strategy. With Dingiswayo's support, he usurped his brother's kingdom - and then went on to carve a broader area of control, assimilating many neighbours into his new fiefdom.

It is argued whether Shaka was complicit in the death of his mentor - he arrived late at the battle where Dingiswayo was captured. Perhaps through accident; perhaps by design. On the subsequent execution of Dingiswayo, Shaka set about consolidating power.

Without challengers, Shaka built a kingdom and reshaped the armies to ensure a quick and firm response to threats. A new capital was built, and economic power became highly centralised - although the new state was doing well, and even further flung corners of the nation benefitted.

When Europeans arrived in the area, Shaka met them with hospitality and curiosity - he granted them land, and it's notable that there was no conflict between the Zulus and the incomers during his reign.

However, there was another side to Shaka - his passion for military control and strategy tipped into the despotic. On the death of his mother, for example, he executed large numbers of people whose grief, he decided, wasn't heartfelt enough. He then decided to send his armies out to ensure that all the chiefdoms in his realm were grieving to the right amount.

This would be his undoing - with his military off making sure people were being upset enough, his bodyguard Mbopha, and his half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana took the opportunity to stab Shaka to death. As he was attacked, Shaka cried out:

“Hey brother! You kill me, thinking you will rule, but the swallows will do that.”

The "swallows" were the Europeans arriving in their country. In the century and a half after his death, on 22nd September 1828, Shaka's prediction would echo down the years.

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