Contributed by Susan Nind-Barrett

John Dunn
A Power Behind The Zulu Throne

Susan Nind-Barrett has published her book The Chief with Ears the Sunlight Shines Through: The Lost History of John Dunn. It is available here. It tells the personal history of an extraordinary man who could have walked straight out of the realms of fiction. A man whose life in the heart of the Zululand bush as a close friend, advisor and confidante of the Zulu King, influenced both the Zulu nation’s destiny and that of colonial Britain. Born into a fledgling society in nascent South Africa, Dunn’s life choices were not predestined by a noble birth, education, wealth or political affiliations, they were thrust upon him as a means of survival. The son of British immigrants, Dunn was left orphaned and destitute in raw frontier country. Courageously, he rose from obscurity to international notoriety and political importance via his close personal relationship with the Zulu king, Cetshwayo kaMpande. His political, economic and military activities spanned decades balanced precariously between British imperial supremacy and the power of an independent Zulu kingdom. After successfully maintaining his neutrality in both the British and Zulu political arenas for decades, the dawn of the Anglo-Zulu War changed everything. Spoiling for war, the British Government issued conflicting political ultimatums to Dunn and Cetshwayo, forcing Dunn to abandon his neutrality and choose between those he considered his brothers on both sides. Renowned for his lavish hunting excursions and grand dinner parties, Dunn was the most entertaining and graphic raconteur, regaling his guests with tales of his perilous adventures. British government officials, senior military officers and European aristocracy sought invitations to his homestead in the heart of Zululand. Admired by those who lived and fought alongside him but constantly condemned by European society for being a polygamist. Controversy continued to cast a never diminishing shadow over his whole life. John Dunn’s fascinating story, that touched the heart of a Zulu king and intrigued a British queen, is narrated with detailed real life and eye-witness accounts which unfold on every page of The Chief with Ears the Sunlight Shines Through.

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by Stephen Luscombe