Caricature of the Zulu King Cetewayo

COVID Creative Events, Projects / May 3, 2021

‘Vanity Fair’ 26 August 1882

A perusal of the material available on the Zulu King Cetewayo (1826-1884) , reveals that the following events had a major impact on him and may also have had a bearing on his caricature:

 1. He was a victim of the “Partition of Africa” by some of Europe’s major powers in the second half of the 19th and the early 20th centuries.

2. He was a victim of the of false propaganda campaign launched by Sir Bartle Frere, the British High Commissioner of South Africa, in which he was branded as aggressive and it was also alleged that he was on the verge of attacking the British.

The fact was that far from being aggressive, he had moved his troops well behind the natural boundary viz., the Buffalo River.

3. At first, there had been a rout of Lord Chelmsford’s main column in the Anglo-Zulu War at Isandlwana (January 1879) by Cetewayo’s troops. But subsequent events had led to King Cetewayo’s defeat and capture after the Battle of Ulundi (1879). Here, once again, he was attacked in spite of peace overtures on his part because Lord Chelmsford wanted to subvert the chances of Lord Woolsley taking over as Commander in Chief.

Notwithstanding severe setbacks, Cetewayo showed great resilence in pursuing his aim for the restoration of his kingdom. He was fortunate to have had the support of influential people in Britain who spoke up for him.

Ultimately, he succeeded in his aim albeit to a limited extent. Unfortunately, he was largely left to his own devices after he returned to Natal and died under suspicious circumstances soon afterwards in 1884.

While in England, the manner in which he conducted himself, his shrewd use of the press and his resultant popularity in England, emphasize his adaptability. 


1. There seems to be a similarity between the caricature of the Zulu King Cetewayo Ka Mapanda by Sir Leslie Ward ‘Spy’ and a photograph of the Zulu King which we came across. The only difference is that in the photograph he is seated in an erect position on a chair with his hands on his lap, while in the caricature, he is sitting in a relaxed manner on a sofa with his hands at his side.

2. ‘Spy’ has clearly mentioned in his description that he made the sketch during his visit to Cetewayo’s 18 Melbury Road, London, W14 residence. Probably, the similarity between his caricature and his photograph is a mere coincidence.

3. Cetewayo was a powerful Zulu King and a brave warrior. From his photographs it is evident that he was well built and had a regal bearing. Queen Victoria, who met Cetewayo during his visit in 1882, also described him as immensely broad and stout and a great warrior.

Likewise, although Sir Leslie Ward refers to him as “robust”, he has depicted him in his caricature as a rather plump and slightly unhealthy looking person.

4. In his caricature, Spy has depicted the Zulu King with a jolly expression on his face. Perhaps he desired to stress Cetewayo’s jolly nature by depicting him in this manner.

We, however, felt drawn to his eyes. A lot appears to be hidden there. We could discern some pain as well as a sense of determination. Is it pain for the loss of his kingdom combined with the determination to get it back?

5. Cetewayo also looks relaxed and at very much at ease in his caricature. It is clear that he had successfully adjusted to living in England and that he had also largely received a positive response from the British public and the authorities. This helped him and ultimately led to the partial restoration of his kingdom.

6. In our view, Cetewayo had a stately bearing and looked like every inch a stately Zulu King. In his caricature, however, he seems to be an ordinary person who is simply sitting and enjoying his life.

7. The caricature depicts Cetewayo as he was at the time of its public release. Spy has shorn him of all the external signs or symbols of his royal lineage, his military background and his outstanding achievements.

Spy’s caricature, projects him as an ordinary person dressed in simple and tight fitting but comfortable clothes. The loose blue slippers in his feet also seem to be stressing his ordinariness. 

The only object that distinguishes him is his decorated and tasseled headgear. Those who must have seen the caricature when it first appeared in ‘Vanity Fair’, must have known from his features and skin colour that he was an outsider far away from his native land, but must have also gathered that he had nevertheless successfully adapted outwardly to English society while trying to achieve the goal for which he had travelled all the way to London – the restoration of his kingdom.

—Amar Peter Chandra & Suman Chandra nee Tandon

After graduation Amar passed out from Jamshedpur’s XLRI, or Xavier School of Management founded in 1949.

In 1969, he joined a nationalised bank. During his banking service. He worked all over India including Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai, Himachal Pradesh and Orissa. He retired from active service as Deputy General Manager in 2008. 

Amar’s hobbies and interests are shooting (at the National level), reading, sports and travelling. He is settled with his wife in in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.

Suman Tandon CHANDRA

Suman hails from a family based in Allahabad. After graduating from the University of Allahabad, she also did a degree in Law from Lucknow University.

Suman joined the UCO Bank. As an Officer, she was stationed in various parts of the country such as Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. 

She is married to Amar Peter Chandra and they are both presently settled at Bhopal.

Suman loves the outdoors and was a President’s Guide while in school. Her hobbies and interests include: music, reading and traveling

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