Political autobiography, nationalist history and national heritage: the case of Kenneth Kaunda and Zambia
Simakole, Brutus Mulilo
MetadataShow full item record
The research for this thesis started off as a long academic essay that sought to review a 1970s biography of Kenneth Kaunda.1 In its original focus, the study aimed at evaluating the work on the narrations of Kenneth Kaunda’s life from a theoretical and critical perspective. Specifically it sought to evaluate the biography for its theoretical and methodological approaches, its attention to issues of sources, archives, narrative and history. In addition, it aimed at locating the biography in relation to debates over biography and history in South Africa. As I began my research for the long essay, it soon became apparent that the biography of Kenneth Kaunda ended its narration in 1964 and yet it was published ten years later in 1974. By ending its ‘coverage’ of the narrations of Kenneth Kaunda’s life in 1964, it seemed obvious that its coverage was in many ways similar to his autobiography that was published in 1962.2 The ending of the biography’s coverage in 1964 thus seemed rather abrupt as it precluded any representations of the subject in the post 1964 period in which he had become President of Zambia. Kenneth Kaunda was resident of Zambia for nearly three decades (1964-1991) having led the ‘final’ phase of the nationalist struggle for Independence through the United National Independence Party (UNIP). Surely, I surmised, the meanings of Kenneth Kaunda’s life as nationalist leader, as presented in most of his biography, would differ from those of him as President? Upon evaluating the biography, it seemed to be a largely chronological and descriptive rather analytical account of the subject’s life. However, what made it profound to me was the ways in which it entwined the narratives of Kenneth Kaunda’s life with the events, dates 1 The biography of Kenneth Kaunda by Fergus Macpherson was the subject of the long essay. See Fergus Macpherson, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia: The Times and the Man (Lusaka: Oxford University Press, 1974). 2 Kenneth D. Kaunda, Zambia Shall Be Free: An Autobiography (London: Heinemann Educational Books td, 1962). and activities of the history of the Zambian nation. Some accounts inadvertently referred to this interconnection by referring to Kenneth Kaunda as the ‘founder of Zambia’. My exposure to various other debates around the production of history in the public domain such as through museums and national heritage sites or monuments prompted me to consider undertaking a study of the post-1964 historiography of Kenneth Kaunda. Rather than attempting to fill Kenneth Kaunda’s post-1964 historiographical gap with a chronological account of his political life, I wanted to trace the narratives of Kenneth Kaunda’s life in connection with the production of history in different domains in Zambia. This thesis thus aims at examining the political auto/biographical narrations of Kenneth Kaunda in relation to the production of nationalist history and national heritage in Zambia in the years following the country’s Independence in 1964.4 One of the key questions that this study sought to engage with was: how did the ‘representations’ of Kenneth Kaunda influence the ways in which Zambia’s post-independence nationalist history and national heritage were produced? In seeking to provide an answer to the question, the study evaluated the auto/biography of Kenneth Kaunda itself, as well as how it reflects in the history texts utilised in Zambian schools and in history in the public domain through national heritage sites or monuments and museum exhibitions. The thesis will show that in Zambia, the auto/biography of Kenneth Kaunda has acquired significance through history as school lesson and as history in the public domain, through the production of national heritage sites and museum exhibitions.