The transculturation of Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka


  • Alexia Vassilatos University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa



Chaka, Francophonie, Negritude, Thomas Mofolo, transculturation, Léopold Sédar Sengho


Often, literary cultures from Anglophone Africa and Francophone Africa are treated as separate intellectual spheres. In this paper, I seek to understand the dialogue between these cultures. Thomas Mofolo’s novel Chaka (1925), drawn from oral lore and written in Sotho by a Sotho writer, is about the life and times of the founder of the Zulu nation, King Chaka. I will show that Chaka is a transcultural text, which is at the source of a complex intellectual relationship between Southern Africa and Francophone Africa within the literature on Chaka. In particular, I am interested in the way in which an African writer from Lesotho could have shaped another African writer’s ideas about the Zulu King—Senegalese poet Léopold Sédar Senghor—which, in turn, triggered a series of Africanist interpretations and rewritings. Through these multiple texts the impact of Chaka on African literature and ideology has been immeasurable. I will discuss Thomas Mofolo’s novel contribution to Chaka’s mythical status in Francophone African literature and Africanist ideology, mainly by way of the Negritude movement. In my analysis I postulate that the complexity of Mofolo’s text and its transculturation stems from the novel’s many forms/(trans)form(ations).


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Author Biography

Alexia Vassilatos, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Alexia Vassilatos is a senior lecturer and Head of French and Francophone Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research focuses on francophone literature and its dialogue with African and Indian Ocean literatures.




How to Cite

Vassilatos, A. (2016). The transculturation of Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 53(2), 161–174.



Research articles