Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa first published Ualalapi: Fragments from the End of Empire in Portuguese in 1987. Named one of Africa's hundred best books of the twentieth century, it reflects on Mozambique's past and present through interconnected narratives related to the last ruler of the Gaza Empire, Ngungunhane. Defeated by the Portuguese in 1895, Ngungunhane was reclaimed for propaganda purposes by Mozambique's post-independence government as a national and nationalist hero. The regime celebrated his resistance to the colonial occupation of southern Mozambique as a precursor to the twentieth-century struggle for independence. In Ualalapi, Ungulani challenges that ideological celebration and portrays Ngungunhane as a despot, highlighting the violence and tyranny that were hallmarks of the Gaza Empire. This fresh look at the history of late nineteenth-century southeast Africa provides a prism through which to examine the machinations of those in power in Mozambique during the 1980s.
Winner of the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award
Around 1900, when the last blank spaces on their maps were filled, Europeans traveled to far-flung places hoping to find the spectacularly foreign. They discovered instead what Freud called, several years later, the uncannily familiar: disturbing reflections of themselves—either actual Europeans or Westernized natives. This experience was most extreme for German travelers, who arrived in the contact zones late, on the heels of other European colonialists, and it resulted not in understanding or tolerance but in an increased propensity for violence and destruction. The quest for a “virginal,” exotic existence proved to be ruined at its source, mirroring back to the travelers demonic parodies of their own worst aspects. In this strikingly original book, John Zilcosky demonstrates how these popular “uncanny” encounters influenced Freud’s—and the literary modernists’—use of the term, and how these encounters remain at the heart of our cross-cultural anxieties today.