The comic artist colouring in the gaps of a legend’s tale
History is shaped by how we tell it. For years, South Africans have used oral storytelling to pass on the tales of legends. One name stands out among them – Shaka. The leader of the Zulu kingdom was an enigma, revered by some for his military tactics, scorned by others for his violent nature. Almost 200 years since he lived, Shaka rises again in full colour between the pages of Luke Molver’s latest graphic novel.
Illustrating Shaka’s story was a deviation from Molver’s previous work as a comic book creator. “I usually work in the genre of horror, crime, and science fiction,” he says. “So it was different for me to write this kind of historical epic.” When Storypress Africa approached him to make a comic about the Zulu leader, Molver realised the importance of bringing the heroes of history to life in a way that entertains and educates. “Most of that stuff we learned in school is untrue and inaccurate,” he says. To handle conflicting narratives, Molver worked alongside renowned Shaka scholars, and considered the variations in written and oral history. In paint and ink, he attempts to do justice to the monarch. “Shaka was not this fulcrum of brutality,” Molver says. “He was this diplomatic leader.”
The artist’s work marks the start of an exciting direction for creatives, one that leads the way for alternative means of storytelling. “Comic books, I believe, are the most powerful medium of communication and education,” Molver says. More than just making learning cool, graphic novels like Shaka Rising show people that their heritage is worth sharing. “I would like the comic to educate children and inspire them to tell their own stories,” Molver says. By colouring in the lines of history, we can ensure that the people who came before us, myth or legend, are never forgotten.