Zulu people refer to themselves as ‘the people of the heavens’ and they are the largest ethnic group of South Africa, with an estimated 10 million Zulu residents in KwaZulu-Natal.Zulu people refer to themselves as ‘the people of the heavens’ and they are the largest ethnic group of South Africa, with an estimated 10 million Zulu residents in KwaZulu-Natal. isiZulu is the language of the Zulu people and about 10 million residents are fluent in the language. In the 19th century they merged into a great kingdom under the leadership of Shaka.
After the death of his father, Senzangakhona, Shaka accepted leadership of the Zulu clan who at the time only consisted of 1 500 people. Under his reign from 1816 until 1828, an army (impi) of 50 000 emerged and defeated other clans.
Shaka created many military tactics to defeat the enemy. He created the ‘Assegai’ (short, large bladed stabbing spear) and the lethal means to utilize the weapon. Shaka also discarded his cowhide sandals, as it hindered his movements. He proved to be a brilliant military leader and soon became a threat for his clan.
After the death of his mother , Nandi, he lost his mind. In his period of grief, Shaka had hundreds of Zulu killed.
How did Shaka Zulu die? The lesser chiefs, his half-brothers Dingaan and Mhlangana, assassinated him. Dingaan, Shaka’s half-brother, took reign over the clan after the assassination of Shaka.
Zulu Traditional Clothing
What do Zulu women wear?
Women dress according to their marital status. An eligible and single Zulu woman shows the pride she has of her body by flaunting it and wearing skirts made out of grass or beaded cotton strings.
A married woman will cover her body to indicate to others that she is taken. An engaged Zulu woman will naturally grow her hair and cover her chest with decorative cloth as a sign of respect to her in laws.
The traditional Zulu clothing for men is umqhele (warrior’s headband) , amambatha to put over the shoulders, ibheshu (acts as a trouser) around the waist, umcedo (used as underwear) to cover the genitalia, and imbadada for his foot.
Amazi, fermented milk, is considered a delicacy and may only be shared with family members. The milk is curdled in a gourd and the whey contents are removed. The taste is described as a mix of cottage cheese and plain yogurt. Zulus believes that amazi makes men strong. Amasi also improves digestion.
Beer – Beer brewing is a three-day process that Zulu women are obliged to fulfil. Maize and sorghum (grain plant) are soaked in water for a day. The content is then boiled with dry sorghum and set to cool of. On the third day the brew is filtered, using a sieve, and it can be consumed the same day.
Traditional Zulu Food
What do Zulu people eat?
Zulu culinary are mainly vegetarian dishes that predominantly consists of vegetables and grain. Starch is a dietary staple and they take form in pap (porridge) and beer. Maize, pumpkins and potatoes are common ingredients used to in traditional dishes.
Oxen are only slaughtered on special occasions such as weddings and coming of age ceremonies. Traditional Zulus eat with wooden bowls and spoons. Before meals, hands are washed and after meals mouths are rinsed.
Disputes between men within the tribe are publicly addressed through stick fighting. The duel is over as soon as blood flows and the winner then tends the wounds of the loser. In the event of death, there is no charge as long as the rules were abided. In 1879, Zulu warriors had their greatest success in warfare against 1 500 British troops.
What are Zulu cultural practices?
Drums are an essential part of Zulu celebrations and it is always accompanied by dancing and chanting. The ingungu drum is made of goatskin, that has been cleaned and stripped from its hair, and a black clay pot.
To play it you have to position a flattened piece of reed on the drum and vibrate it with both hands. The ingungu is played to celebrate the start of a young woman’s first menstruation.
What is the purpose of the Zulu dance?
There are a number of dances in Zulu culture that celebrates different areas of life. The hunting dance symbolizes the bravery it requires to hunt by imitating the movements of hunters. The dance is performed during ceremonies before warriors go out to hunt. To avoid injury sticks are used instead of spears.
The dance of the small shield is a rhythmic dance that encourages military unity and it is normally performed at royal occasions.
What happens at a Zulu funeral?
Like many cultures, the Zulu people believe that life doesn’t end with death but continues in the spiritual world. Death is seen as a person’s deeper connection with all creation. Every person who dies within the Zulu tribe must be buried the traditional way. If not done the traditional way, the deceased may become a wandering spirit. An animal is slaughtered as a ritual. The deceased’s personal belongings is buried with them to aid them in their journey.
Ancestors are believed to live in the spirit world unKulunkulu (the greatest of the great) and are regarded as intermediaries between the living and the spirit world and they work hand in hand with God. Zulu beliefs are formed around the presence of ancestral spirits, known as amadlozi and abaphansi.
Ancestors’ presence comes in the form of dreams, sickness and snakes. Opportune times to communicate with ancestors are during birth, puberty, marriage and death. Contact with ancestors are made to ask them for blessings, good luck, fortune, guidance and assistance.
Ancestors are implored through offerings and sacrifices. Home-brewed beer and slaughtering animals are some of the common forms of offerings. Bad luck is considered to be the work of an evil spirit and to rid with the issue a traditional healer, known as a sangoma, communicates to the spirit with the help of prayer and herbs.
What is Zulu Culture?
You will always find exciting music and interesting dance moves at any Zulu ceremony. Find out more about the Zulu Culture and the meaning of their ceremonies.
What is the Zulu Nation?
The Zulu’s are the largest cultural population group within South Africa. Learn more about the Zulu Nation in South Africa, known as the mightiest empire in Sothern Africa.