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The Legend of the Lost City; Or, the Man with Golden Balls

Martin Hall
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jun., 1995), pp. 179-199
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2637020
Page Count: 21
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The Legend of the Lost City; Or, the Man with Golden Balls
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Abstract

The image of Africa as the `dark continent' predates the beginning of colonial penetration by many centuries. This paper traces these notions through sources such as the Bible, medieval travel fiction and legends of fabulous wealth. It is argued that such myths had a three part structure: ancient civilization, dark destruction, and later discovery. By the time Great Zimbabwe was `discovered', its ruins could immediately be inscribed with meanings that confirmed old beliefs and justified the colonial enterprise. A popular literature developed, leading to a complex interplay with the emerging discipline of archaeology as practised in Africa. The consequence has been a widely held view of Africa's past, as prevalent in Hollywood as in the apartheid past, which allows for little change and which inevitably seeks inspiration from outside the continent. This view finds expression today in the production of popular culture: best selling novels, film romances and resort development - the opulent `Lost City' in the one-time homeland of Bophuthatswana.

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