Zulu Woman: The Life Story of Christina Sibiya
In 1934, American writer Rebecca Hourwich Reyher recorded the remarkable life story of Christina Sibiya, the first of sixty-five wives of the uncrowned king of the Zulus. What Reyher faithfully recorded – and then crafted into a moving narrative – is the riveting story of a South African woman who entered life among the Zulu royal family and then, after enduring psychic and physical abuse, found the courage to leave. In 1915, fifteen-year-old Christina Sibiya leaves teaching at a mission school to become the first wife of Solomon ka Dinuzulu. While at the royal household, Sibiya successfully adjusts to the expectations of her new position: finding her place among the other wives, and negotiating Zulu and Christian tradition. The royal headquarters, however, becomes increasingly plagued by diviseness, dissolution, and ill health. After a series of hardships, climaxing in a beating by Solomon, Sibiya, at the age of twenty-eight, escapes to Durban. Although pursued by Solomon’s representative, Sibiya successfully resists Solomon’s authority by testifying first in a European magistrate’s court and then at the royal headquarters that her marriage was invalid. First published in 1948, "Zulu Woman" is placed in new context by an introduction and afterword which consider the book’s relationship to other African literature and oral history, attend to questions of power and authorship, and draw upon newly available archival materials.