The Zulu (Zulu: amaZulu) are the largest South African ethnic group, with an estimated 10–11 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. Their language, Zulu, is a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. The Zulu Kingdom played a major role in South African history during the 19th and 20th centuries. Under apartheid, Zulu people were classed as third-class citizens and suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination. They remain today the most numerous ethnic group in South Africa, and now have equal rights along with all other citizens.
The Zulu were originally a major clan in what is today Northern KwaZulu-Natal, founded ca. 1709 by Zulu kaNtombhela. In the Nguni languages, iZulu/iliZulu/liTulu means heaven, or sky. At that time, the area was occupied by many large Nguni communities and clans (also called isizwe=nation, people or isibongo=clan).
Historical Origins of Zulu people
Around the Great Lake regions of Central and East Africa lived the Bantu, which in the language of the Zulus is a collective noun for ‘people’. The Nguni people also lived in this region and they were the direct ancestors of the Zulu people. They were called Zulu after the individual who headed a migration from Egypt to the Great Lakes via the corridor of the Red Sea.
Zulu women of the Masai Mara. Circa 1910
In Zulu folklore links are said to exist between the Zulu people, Egypt, the Old Testament and Israel. The new home land of the Ngumi people was called Embo. Contemporary Zulu story tellers still refer to this mystical land of Embo. The Ngumi people existed as pastoralists and subsistence farmers. Wealth was measured in cattle. A practice still kept up to this present day and a custom which still exists in many regions of Africa.
Zulu Maiden at Reed Dance
During the Iron Age there was a large increase in the population and in cattle. This led to a mass migration of the Nguni people. Their chiefs started to move their people east and south east to the rich arable areas
which existed along the Indian Ocean coastline. The Karanga people went south to what is now Zambia and Zimbabwe. Because of internal strife and tension amongst the Karanga people they migrated even further south. Approximately 700 years ago the Lala people met up with the stone age bushmen.
Initially the Lala people and the Bushmen benefited from their shared existence and knowledge. For instance the Bushman began to use arrow heads when they went out hunting and specific tools when out foraging and harvesting crops. The Lala people started to form static communities in what was once Bushmen territory. Crops were grown and their animals had fixed grazing areas. Trade relationships developed between the two groups and for two centuries they lived in peaceful coexistence before tensions developed and the Bushmen were forced to go to land further south in order to maintain their sense of identity and lifestyle.
Zulu Dancer,Kwa-Zulu Natal
The San or Bushmen who live a hunter and gather existence are said to be the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa. These were the people responsible for the cave paintings and rock engravings found in this region of Africa and bear similarities to the rock paintings found in the Sahara and from Ethiopia down all the way to the Cape of Good Hope. The language of the San people has a distinctive click, a manner of speech which has survived in some Bantu languages. The San people are small in stature and live close to nature. They used stone age tools and weapons. Their tools consisted of items such as flint scrapers with wooden handles, bows and arrows with wooden or bone arrow heads and quite often were often dipped in poison.
The Khoikhoi or Hottenots have ancestral links to the San people. They are the offspring of Bantu farmers and pastoralists and San women. Within their culture they had many stories which were similar to that of Aesop fables. They are also said to have worshiped Pleides. The women are said to have climbed hills with their children to praise the ‘6 Sisters’ as they rose in the night sky.
During the 16th Century there was a continuation of the exodus from the Great Lakes of Central and East Africa. Large masses of Ngumi people headed towards the sea from the Lebombo Mountains. Women carried their possessions on their heads. Young boys urged the stock forward with small sticks in their hand. Many of the migrating clans settled on this fertile coastal strip and they called the region Maputaland after their king. Later on there was a further migration southwards to more fertile land in a landscape which had powerful flowing rivers. These new arrivals put more pressure on the Bushmen communities and the Lala people were faced with the stark choice of either integrating or moving on.
Zulu Motor cab. Circa 1910
Maladela or The Follower was the chief of one group. He had discovered an idyllic fertile valley which he occupied with his numerous wives and the rest of his clan. No form of central authority existed. Clans consisted of patriarchal social units and the chiefdoms were ruled over by the most powerful clan. These cohesive groups varied in size from around a thousand people to much greater numbers where groups of chiefs were governed by an Overlord. Spheres of influence and alliances were in a constant state of flux.
Malendala’s son was called Zulu which means Heaven. Zulu’s wives travelled with him to a fresh area south of the Mkhumbane river basin where very tall euphorbia trees grew. These trees became the symbol of Zulu chiefs. This became known as the first Kwazulu or Place of Heaven. Zulu built his new home based upon traditional designs. This consisted of a central and circular cattle fold. A pole and thatched bee hive huts for family members arranged in a crescent at the high sloping area of land. The floors of the huts were made up of a mix of anthill sand and cattle dung and polished to look like green marble. The round houses which were formed around the cattle units were placed in a strict hierarchical order. Each house to the left was allocated for the men folk while the houses on the right were for the women folk. The fronts of each dwelling place represented the public arena. A public space where the whole community could meet while at the back of each house private religious ceremonies took place.
SA president,Jacob Zumu doing his Zulu tribe`s ancient marriage dance with his new bride
Zulu Mythology on Creation
Zulu mythological God Mvelinqangi is believed to reside in the sky. Hence the name Lord of the Sky (Inkosi Yezulu). It is said that Mvelinqangi was relaxing when it was reported to him that one of the young men had played a mischief. He had decided to ride Mvelinqangi`s sacred white horse. The young man was instantly expelled from heaven. He was brought down on earth through a hole in the sky. A cord was tied around his waist and was brought down. He arrived on earth and a reed was used to cut the cord.
Zulu man and his wife. Circa 1910
Later Mvelinqangi saw the boy lonely and suffering on earth. Mvelinqangi had compassion on him and sent a beautiful woman through the same process. That is how man and woman came to be on earth as two multiply.
Beautiful Zulu lady in traditional attire
This myth indicates that humans originated from the Lord of the sky and before the white man brought his christian God and Islamic Allah, the black African Zulu knows about the ancient God. He is the source of life to the Zulu. Perhaps that is why the Zulu people are referred to as AMAZULU (People of the Sky). It is because the sky is their place of origin, (Berglund 1973:36).
Another Zulu mythology associates the origin of human life with the bed of reeds. Male Zulu greet one another cordially with words like: “Wena Wohlanga” (You of Reeds).
Zulu drummers and dancers
Rise of the Zulu people under King Shaka Zulu during the “Mfecane / Difaqane” war.
The rise of the Zulu people under their King Shaka Zulu during the “Mfecane / Difaqane” war was one of the most significant historical occurrences in the early history of South Africa. The term Mfecane (Nguni languages) means “destroyed in total war”.The Sotho speaking people on the highveld used the term Difaqane, which means”hammering” or “forced migration/removal.”
The Mfecane / Difaqane war,..
Zulu man at Reed Dance
Whole communities of peoples were displaced in their flight from larger warring tribes. The winning tribes would often incorporate the losers into their tribes. Three key figures in this all out battle for power among the African tribes in Southern Africa were Dingiswayo (leader of the Mtethwa tribe), Zwide (leader of the Ndandwe tribe) and of course King Shaka.
The Mfecane had a great influence on the history of South Africa. Large parts of the country in Natal, the Transvaal and Free State were largely depopulated because people fled in droves to safer areas such as the Transkei, the edge of the Kalahari, the Soutpansberg and the present day Lesotho. In consequence, these areas could not cope with the sudden influx and became overpopulated.
Enlargement of a section of a 1885 map of South Africa showing geographical details of Zululand and Natal
Rise of the Zulu people under King Shaka Zulu
After the Mfecane, the Black peoples were living in an area shaped like a horseshoe. The Tswana and Pedi lived in the west and the Venda, Shangaan, Tsonga and Swazi lived in the north. The Zulu people lived in the eastern part of the country, as did the Sotho and the inhabitants of both Transkei and Ciskei. The whites took advantage of this situation by moving into the empty areas and in this way the ethnic map of South Africa was changed completely.
Many people died during the Mfecane. Violence and starvation were rampant, because the livestock was stolen and people could not stay long enough in one place to cultivate crops. Although hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, it also gave rise to the formation of big new nations such as the Sotho. The tribes of leaders such as Dingane, Shaka, Mzilikazi and Soshangane were significantly strengthened and changed.
Dingiswayo chief of the Mthethwa,…
When Dingiswayo became leader of the Mthethwa, his main concern was to improve the military system of his tribe. Young men of a similar age were divided into regiments. Each regiment had its own name, colour and weapons. The young men were even required to remain celibate until such time when they had proven themselves worthy of the name “warrior”.
Dingiswayo’s army soon went from strength to strength and was employed in an attempt to expand his territory. The army attacked smaller tribes which were allowed to continue their existence as tribes, but only if they agreed to recognise him as their paramount chief. Some of the tribes which were dominated in this way were the Thembu, Qwabe, Mshali Mngadi and the Zulus.
Zulu army on the attack
The Zulus were initially a small tribe which recognised Dingiswayo as its paramount chief. The tribe consisted of approximately 2 000 people and its tribal chief was Senzangakona. Shaka, his son, was born in around the year 1787. Shaka and his mother Nandi could not get along with some of the other members of the family and went to live with Nandi’s family, among the Lungeni people.
When Shaka was 16, his mother took him to the Mthethwa and, at the age of 22, he became a soldier in one of Dingiswayo’s regiments. He was brave and intelligent and soon became leader of one of the regiments. When Senzangakona died in 1816, Sigujane, a half-brother of Shaka, became chief. Shaka, together with another half-brother Ngwadi, plotted against Sigujane, who was soon murdered.
With a regiment borrowed from Dingiswayo, Shaka made himself chief of the Zulus. Shaka was an exceptional military leader and organised his armies with military precision. All the men younger than forty were divided into regiments, based on their age. Shaka built his capital at Bulawayo and, although he recognised Dingiswayo as paramount chief, started incorporating smaller tribes into the Zulu nation.
In 1819, when war broke out between the Ndwandwe and Mthethwa, Dingiswayo was killed by Zwide, after which the defeated Mthethwa tribe was incorporated into Shaka’s tribe. In time, Shaka destroyed the Ndwandwe tribe completely.
Only known drawing of King Shaka standing with the long throwing assegai and the heavy shield in 1824 – four years before his death
Rise of the Zulu people under King Shaka Zulu
He employed cunning military techniques such as the following: when Zwide sent the Ndwandwe to attack Shaka, the latter hid the food and led his people and cattle further and further away from the capital. Zwide’s army followed and Shaka’s soldiers waited until night fell to attack them, when they were exhausted and hungry.
The Ndwandwe army turned back, after which Shaka attacked and destroyed them. A second attempt was made by Zwide later in 1819 to destroy Shaka, but once again the Ndwandwe had no luck. After this attempt, Shaka ordered the complete destruction of the Ndwandwe people.
Warrior Utimuni, nephew of King Shaka, commander of one of Shaka’s regiments
Shaka went on destroying several smaller tribes until Natal was practically depopulated. The Zulus eventually grew into a mighty nation when Shaka succeeded in uniting all the people in his chiefdom under his rule. In 1828, two of Shaka’s half-brothers, Dingane and Mahlangane, murdered him and Dingane took his place as leader.
Dingane’s capital was built at Umgungundlovu. He was not as good a soldier as Shaka and this caused his defeat in many of his wars. In order to combat the decline of his kingdom, Dingane decided to kill a few important leaders.
One of these leaders, Ngeto (of the Qwabe tribe), realised that his life was in danger and, after gathering his people and livestock, fled southwards and settled in the Mpondo district, from which he himself started to attack other tribes. Dingane soon sent soldiers to fight the Mpondo people but he also launched attacks against Mzilikazi and the Voortrekkers.
Sketch of King Dingane at the murder of PietRetief and his men.
Rise of the Zulu people under King Shaka Zulu
On 3 February 1838, Dingane’s tribesmen killed Piet Retief, together with 67 of his followers, during an ambush. Retief had an agreement with Dingane that if he succeeded in returning Dingane’s cattle that had been stolen by Sikonyela, the Voortrekkers would be allowed to buy land from him and his people.
When the Voortrekkers returned with the stolen cattle, they were killed. The Voortrekkers swore vengeance and Dingane’s army was defeated at Blood River on 16 December 1838 by Andries Pretorius. Dingane’s death brought with it an end to the extermination wars waged by him and his armies. However, in other parts of the country, the Mfecane continued under leaders such as Msilikazi, Soshangane and Sikonyela.
Another small Nguni tribe that was forced to join Zwide’s Ndwandwe tribe was called the Khumalo. The Khumalo tribe was suspected of treachery during the war against Dingiswayo’s Mthethwa and its leader, Mashobane, was summoned to Zwide’s kraal and killed. Zwide appointed Mzilikazi as the new leader of the Khumalo.
He was an intelligent leader who knew how to gain the trust of the tribes that had been incorporated into his own. Trouble started when Mzilikazi began to suspect that Zwide wanted to kill him. In preparation, Mzilikazi formed an alliance with Shaka, who allowed him to be the leader of one of his regiments.
Watercolour sketch of Mzilikazi, chief of the Khumalo tribe and later king of the Matabele
In 1821, Mzilikazi felt strong enough to become independent. Shaka sent him to attack a small Sotho tribe northwest of Zululand and, as always, he brought back with him a number of cattle taken during the battle. However, this time he did not hand them over to Shaka as he had done before. When Shaka sent his messengers to collect the cattle, Mzilikazi refused to return them. After this, he was attacked by Shaka’s army and had no option but to flee with his people.
Mzilikazi trekked northwards with his people until he reached the Olifants (Elephants) River. He was now in the territory of powerful Sotho tribes, which he attacked, taking their women, children and livestock. He attacked tribes as far as Tswanaland and overpowered them by the military tactics perfected by the Zulus. His tribe eventually became known as the Matabele.
Mzilikazi decided to trek to the central Transvaal and he eventually settled in the vicinity of what is today known as Pretoria. He moved because he needed to put even more distance between himself and Shaka and he was also in need of more grazing land. After this move, his tribe became even more bloodthirsty.
When the Voortrekkers came on the scene in 1836, Mzilikazi once again went on the attack. At Vegkop, the Voortrekkers succeeded in defeating the Matebele, but they lost all their cattle. In 1837, the Voortrekkers once again succeeded in defeating the Matebele at Mosega and the Voortrekkers, under the leadership of Potgieter, recovered some of their stolen cattle.
The Matabele then moved away only to be defeated by the Zulus. In an attempt to get away from his enemies, Mzilikazi crossed the Soutpansberg Mountains and the Limpopo River into which is today known as Zimbabwe in 1868. He died there a some years later.
Induna in full regalia, name for a chief or a commander of a group of Zulu warriors appointed by the king
Rise of the Zulu people under King Shaka Zulu
After the tribes of Zwide, Soshangane, Zwangendaba and Nxaba,had been defeated by Shaka, they fled to Mozambique. There, they destroyed the Portuguese settlement at Delagoa Bay.
As the Mfecane continued, the land was devastated and tribes were attacked. Much damage was done. Soshangane’s capital was near the modern day Maputo and Shaka attacked him here in the campaign that cost Shaka’s life. Soshangane then moved on to Middle Sabie and settled near Zwangendaba and his people.
The tribes of Soshangane and Zwangendaba coexisted in harmony until 1831, when they went to war. Zwangendaba had to flee before Soshangane, after which Soshangane, went on to attack Nxaba, who responded by fleeing with his followers to the present-day Tanzania.
With Soshangane’s biggest enemies out of the way, he began building his Gaza Kingdom. From his capital, Chaimite, soldiers were sent in all directions to attack other tribes. Even the Portuguese were forced to accept him as paramount chief.
His kingdom stretched from the Zambezi to the Limpopo Rivers and his army resembled that of the Zulus in its military strategies. As Soshangane grew older, he began to believe that the Matshangano had bewitched him. In retaliation, he attacked them and many fled to the Transvaal where their descendants still live today. Soshangane died around the year 1826.
A painting of Cetshwayo kaMpande (circa 1826 – February 8, 1884) who was the king of the Zulus from 1872 to 1879 and their leader during the Anglo / Zulu War.
During the early 19th century, two of the biggest Nguni tribes, the Hlubi and the Ngwane, lived near the present-day Wakkerstroom. The Hlubi were under the leadership of Mpangazita and Matiwane was the leader of the Ngwane. The Zulus had forced these two tribes across the Drakensberg Mountains into Sotho territory, which meant the start of the Mfecane for the Sotho tribes.
The first tribe to be attacked was the Batlokwa. The tribe’s chief had just died and his successor, Sikonyela, was still too young to rule. His mother, Mmantatise was a strong leader and ruled in his place. After the Hlubi tribe defeated the Batlokwa, they took to wandering around and attacking other tribes and tribes such as the Bafokeng were forced to flee. The Batlokwa eventually settled at Butha-Buthe, a mountain stronghold.
Zulus warriors on a post card from the late 1800s
Rise of the Zulu people under King Shaka Zulu
Moshweshwe was living on the mountain with his small tribe and after repeatedly attacking Mmantatise, Moshweshwe’s tribe moved to Peka. There they continued the Mfecane and defeated the Hlubi. Sikonyela was by now old enough to lead the Batlokwa in battle and, in 1824, they made another attempt to re-conquer Moshweshwe’s mountain stronghold at Butha Buthe.
The mountain was surrounded in order to stop the Sotho people from obtaining food. After two months, a Nguni tribe came to Moshweshwe’s rescue and the Batlokwa were forced to leave. The Batlokwa subsequently went to settle on two other mountains. In 1852, Moshweshwe finally drove the Batlokwa away.
Moshweshwe, the builder of the Sotho empire, was born in 1793. His mother belonged to the Bafokeng tribe and his father was chief of the Bakwena tribe. When the Mfecane began in 1816, Moshweshwe was 23 years old. During the early years of his chieftainship, leaders such as Shaka, Dingane and Mzilikazi were waging the destructive wars of the Mfecane.
1885 map of Southern Africa showing the British possessions
Many of the people who got caught up in these wars turned to Moshweshwe for refuge. He took them all in and his tribe grew bigger and stronger. In 1823, Moshweshwe established Butha-Buthe as the capital of his chiefdom. A year later, he established a safer stronghold at Thaba Bosigo.
This mountain stronghold was so secure that when Mzilikazi attacked it in 1831, he had to turn back without accomplishing anything. Moshweshwe was a diplomatic and powerful leader and was too clever to try to expand his territory northwards because he knew that this would incur the wrath of strong leaders such as Mzilikazi, Shaka and Dingane.
The Zulu engage in small-scale trading as part of the informal sector to supplement the money that members of the household earn by working in cities and small towns. Few Zulu people engage in serious commercial activities. Professional jobs are the main avenue for economic development. Although horticulture is still practiced in rural areas, there is general dependence on the commercial market for food. Small-scale agriculture merely supplements a family’s income.
The Unique Aspect of Zulu Beadwork
What makes Zulu beadwork unique is the code by which particular colours are selected and combined in various decorative geometrical designs in order to convey messages. The geometric shapes themselves have particular significance and the craft itself forms a language devoted entirely to the expression of ideas, feelings and facts related to behaviour and relations between the sexes.
Meaning of Symbols
The Zulu beadwork language is deceptively simple: it uses one basic geometric shape, the triangle, and seven basic colours. The triangle’s 3 corners represent father, mother and child. A triangle pointing down represents and unmarried woman; pointing up it represents an unmarried man. Two triangles joined at their bases represented a married woman, while two triangles joined at their points, in an hourglass shape, represent a married man.
Meaning of Bead Colours
The seven basic colours can be used to convey a negative or a positive meaning, as follows:
|Black||marriage, regeneration||sorrow, despair, death|
|Blue||fidelity, a request||ill feeling, hostility|
|Yellow||wealth, a garden, industry, fertility||thirst, badness, withering away|
|Green||contentment, domestic bliss||illness,discord|
|Pink||high birth, an oath, a promise||poverty, laziness|
|Red||physical love, strong emotion||anger, heartache, impatience|
|White||spiritual love, purity, virginity||(no negative meaning)|
The title chief is no longer acceptable among these traditional leaders because it evokes their subjugation under colonial rule as the “bossboys” of an oppressive regime. They prefer to be called by the Zulu alternativeamakhosi (singular, inkosi). People who live on farms and work for white farmers also have limited scope to practice subsistence agriculture for themselves because they work under controls and constraints that relate to their terms of rent and remuneration as farm workers. Urban Zulu dwellers live under various arrangements of rent, private ownership, and rate payments.
At the beginning of the twentieth century this residential pattern changed drastically, but when people with the same surname meet for the first time, for example, at the airport in Johannesburg, they regard themselves as being related. Zulu people observe exogamy with immediate relatives of the mother’s kin and with people who have the same surname as their mothers.
Kinship Terminology. Kinship terminology for the nuclear family includes the following terms: umama for mother, ubaba for father, udadewethu sister, umfowethu brother, undodakazi for daughter, and undodana son. This is the terminology sometimes used by people in recognition of their respective ages as they interact. In-laws use the same terms modified to indicate the affinal nature of the relationship.
Thus, for a young woman who has married into another household, her husband’s mother is called her mamezala even though in her usual address she will call her mama. Her husband’s father is ubabezala even though when addressing him she will call him baba. Other terms of respect to refer to a sister/sister-in-law and a brother/brother-in-law aresisi and bhuti, respectively. These terms may have originated from other languages, but they are popularly used as a sign of respect for people one does not want to mention categorically by name. Cousins call each other mzala or gazi, with the latter term being used mostly among parallel cousins related through their mothers.
One’s father’s brother is called bab’omkhulu or bab’omncane, depending on whether he is older or younger than one’s father. One’s father’s sister is called babekazi although the English derived anti gained in popularity at the beginning of the twentieth century. On the mother’s side, one’s mother’s sisters are calledmam’khulu or mam’ncane according to whether they are older or younger. The mother’s brother is calledmalume. The mother’s brother calls his sister’s child mshana. Male grandparents, whether patrilineal or matrilineal, are called ugogo for grandmother and umkhulu for grandfather. A man’s in-laws are umukhwe for his wife’s father, umkhwekazi for her mother, and umlamu or usibali for his wife’s siblings.
President Jacob Zuma’s daughters Duduzile Zuma, right, and Phumzile Zuma attend their uMemulo (coming of age) ceremony at the Zuma homestead on April 21 in Nkandla in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
President Jacob Zuma’s daughter Duduzile during her uMemulo (coming of age) ceremony at the Zuma homestead in Nkandla on April 21, 2011 in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. (Photo by Sunday Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Umemulo ceremony at Inanda,SA
The „coming of age‟ ceremony „umemulo‟ is an important step for any young girl taking her from childhood into womanhood. Umemulo is similar to a Western 21st birthday and is a way for parents to show their love for a young girl and reward her for her faithful obedience. Before the ceremony the girl is traditionally supposed to spend, at least, a week indoors and no one must see her, not even her mother and father. While in seclusion, the girls from surrounding areas will come during the night to dance with her, traditionally, until the last day when they spend the whole night dancing until dawn. By approximately 4 am they go to the river and cleanse themselves.
Umemulo initiates cleansing themselves in a river.
Only thereafter, her father and other people around are allowed to see such a girl. Dancing commences and guests join in the ceremony. When guests come and join the ceremony the girl (who the ceremony is all about) points a spear (umkhonto) at guests and they pin gifts of money to the garment on her head.
Umemulo solo dance
Like the ukwemula and umemulo ceremonies, the reed ceremony involves young teenage women. The ceremony takes place once a year on the second Saturday of September at the King‟s palaces which are situated at Nyokeni and Nongoma.
As part of the annual first fruits ceremony, Zulu warriors attempt to kill a bull with their bare hands at the royal palace in Nongoma
The traditional Zulu first fruit rituals/Doloqina Ukweshwama
the Umkhosi Wokweshwama ceremony
Young men (Amabutho) Killing the bull with their hands During the Ceremony.
This ceremony acknowledges that the group of boys in question has now reached maturity and that they will no longer be expected to look after cattle but are recognised as adults. It marks a time for them to hand over their cattle-tending duties to the younger boys.
Zulu young men killing the cattle with their bare hand
Makoti Zulu attire
President Jacob Zuma and his wife in traditional Zulu attire
Marriage and Family
Furthermore, lobola compensates for the loss of the daughter, as the father receives something in return of great value, namely ten heads of cattle. An eleventh cow goes to the bride‟s mother for her personal use. The purpose of lobola is therefore two-fold: firstly it cements the friendship between two families and secondly it compensates for the loss of a daughter and the domestic labour that she represents.
Sending the Lobola to the bride`s parents
Zulu woman being taken to place of departure with traditional dance
Zulu wedding dance
Her attire distinguishes the bride from the rest of the people in the ceremony, the veil being associated with the hlonipha custom.
South African president Jacob Zuma in typical Zulu wedding dress
Zulu wedding Dance
One is reminded of a warrior who carries both these defence items signifying that the bride has fought many battles and have overcome many problems in order to marry and that she is prepared to fight many more in her future after marriage. It is said that the ihawu and assegai mark victory over problems that could have thwarted her marriage and at the wedding she dances to celebrate this victory.
South African President Jacob Zuma and his fifth wife doing the traditional wedding dance
Zulu groom and his white wife in their traditional wedding dress
Even though frowned upon, out-of-wedlock births are becoming prevalent in KwaZulu-Natal. Single mothers tend to remain with their matrilineal relatives. Their children adopt matrilineal identity since no bride-wealth was paid by the fathers’ kin group.
Portrait of a young Zulu tribe woman in the streets of Johannesburg
The school (and later tertiary education institutions for those who can afford them) occupies the lives of boys and girls. Different stages of a person’s life are marked by ceremonial occasions which aid in the internalization of new roles.
Zulu village chief (inkosi)
Socioeconomic inequality is caused by differential access to monetary resources in a capitalist economy. Economic differentiation coexists with different lifestyles: a traditional Zulu lifestyle reflected in religion, dress code, and a defiant attitude toward Western standards and mannerisms and an alternative Western competitive capitalist lifestyle. However, there are no pure Zulus and no complete Western converts.
Swaziland’s King Mswati III (a Zulu) (c.) and Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini (l.) attend the annual reed dance in Ludzidzini, Swaziland, in 2005, where young girls perform a dance after days of gathering reeds to present to the king. The annual reed dance gives Mr. Mswati the opportunity to choose another wife should he so wish.
The “chief’s” have subdivisions (izigodi) within the chiefdoms, which are looked after by headmen (izinduna). In some chiefdoms “chief’s” have additional councilors who, together with headmen, form part of what is called the Tribal Authority, which helps the “chief govern. In addition, structures of the democratically elected local government administer access to facilities and services to all the people in KwaZulu-Natal Province. These structures work closely with the provincial government, and their relationship with the ‘chief’s’ is a contentious issue.
Zulu King,Goodwill Zwelithini and his wife
Religion and Expressive Culture
Swazi King,Mswati (a zulu) leading the Maidens at Umhlanga (Reed Dance)
Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulus
Healing among the Zulu center around uMvelinqangi (God), the amadlozi (ancestors),nature and a person’s connection to these spiritual forces in a deep and profound manner. This person is called a traditional healer within the Western concept of specialists. The traditional healer has always been a person of great respect in the community, a medium with the amadlozi (ancestors) and uMvelinqangi (the first Creator) (Ngubane, 1977).
Persons who visit the traditional healer are required to engage in specific communally beneficial ways following in one’s effort to restore order and balance within self and the community. Because uMvelinqangiexists within everything, the healer must simply connect with the universal force to manifest the full power of uMvelinqangi. This process will empower the ill person (or empower the powerful collective presence within the person) while concomitantly over powering the destructive forces outside of the person. Throughout history traditional healers have played a plethora of roles within Zulu society, such as:
(1) Diviner/priest, accepted medium with amadlozi/abaphansi (ancestral shades) and the uMvelinqangi (First Creator), religious head of society, prominent at all major umsenbezi (rituals);
(2) Protector and provider of customs, sociocultural cohesion and transformation, legal arbiter at public divinations, ecologist and rainmaker; and
(3) Specialists in preventive, primitive and therapeutic medicine including the use of traditional pharmacology (Edwards, 1987).
fall into the following categories:
1. Sanusis – A sorcerer, who can be male or female but is generally male; the title is
sometimes applied to a healer.
2. Znyange Zokwelapha – A healer.
3. Znyanga Zemithi – A specialist in tribal medicine.
4. Znyanga Zezulu – A weather worker.
5. Sangoma – A counselor or diviner; usually female sometimes male.
Edwards (1987) suggests that there are three broad overlapping categories of traditional healers in South Afrika i.e. inyanga (traditional doctor/herbalist) isangoma (diviner/counselor), and umthandazi (faith healer). For this discussion, we will use these three categories of healers. The inyanga is usually a male who has gone through a period of training with an accomplished inyanga for at least one year. Inyangas typically use amakhambi (herbal medicines) for immunization, tonic and preventative measures, body cleanser, laxatives, etc.
When amamkhubalo (herbal medicines) are used for umsenbezi (ritual), color classification of the medicine and time of day and season of administration become significant.
1. Ubulawu – A liquid medicine used across all colors.
2. Insizi – Powdered herbs, roots or animal medicine that is always used as a black medicine to pull out an illness.
3. Intelezi – A liquid medicine used as a white medicine to render free from imperfections often
after sickness is taken out with a red or black medicine.
Here we see that the Zulu operate in harmony with nature and the universe, and that various aspects of color contain the power for healing. To further illustrate this harmonious relationship with nature, there are certain herbs that are extracted only in the morning, day, evening or night. It is believed that the full healing power is manifested at specific universe time periods and one must approach that herb at the proper time that uMvelinqangi has bestowed upon it with its full power.
The next traditional healer is called isangoma. This healer is usually a woman who shares knowledge of medicine with the inyanga (herb doctor). A person is chosen by the spiritual realm to be a sangoma after an ukuthwasa (life transforming experience).
The sangoma divines using a set of objects that have special meaning or energy. After an apprentice spends time with an established sangoma, s/he begins to develop her/his own style…collects a bag of oracle bones…from animals or other materials…in twos, representing male and female (1992, p. 77).
Both the inyanga and isangoma are part of a public imisebenzi (ritual) and the Nomkhubulwane ceremony for girls. Nomkhubulwane is the first princess and the daughter of uNunkulunkulu (the Great Grandfather).
a virgin, the healers imisebenzi (ritual) serves to influence and reduce the rate of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) while providing insight into food selection, preparation, and consumption.
The third traditional healer has evolved recently with the influx of people moving from the rural to urban areas. The umthandazi (faith healer) has become an intricate part of the combination of traditional Afrikan religion and Christianity. They are found primarily within the Zionist and Apostolic churches of the cities. The umthandazi has the ability to prophesize, heal and divine using prayer, holy water, baths, enemas and steaming baths.
Ufufunyane – spirit possession attributed to ubuthakati (sorcery to destroy).
Idliso – poisoning attributed to ubuthakati (sorcery to destroy).
Umeqo – disorder attributed to stepping over the harmful creation of a sorcerer.
Symptoms include very painful joints or edema of the ankles.
Uvalo – anxiety attributed to sorcery aimed at lowering the defenses.
Umnyama – experiencing illness or adversity because of contact with places or people
immediately associated with major life and death events (e.g. birth, death, sexual
Umkhondo omubi – a dangerous track or ecological health hazard such as lightening.