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.

                                                            Zulu people

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).

                                                         Zulu people

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.
                                                              Zulu Warriors, c 1910

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
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
Zulu army on the attack

Shaka king of the Zulus,... 

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. 

                                                          Zulu kids

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
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. 

Zulu Warrior Utimuni, nephew of King Shaka, leading one of Shaka's regiments
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, Shaka's successor,... 

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 Piet Retief and his men
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. 

Mzilikazi king of the Matabele,... 

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
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. 
                                                  Zulu women

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, Zulu name for a chief or a commander of a group of warriors appointed by the king
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

Chief Soshangane,... 

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
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.

Sikonyela and his mother Mmantatise,... 

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. 
Zulu warriors on a post card from the late 1800s
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 builder of the Sotho empire,... 

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
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. 
Zulu Dancers

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. 
Ceshtwayo kaMpande, former King of the Zulu

The language of the Zulu people is "isiZulu", a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. Zulu is the most widely spoken language in South Africa, where it is an official language. More than half of the South African population are able to understand it, with over 9 million first-language and over 15 million second-language speakers. Many Zulu people also speak Afrikaans, English, Portuguese, Xitsonga, Sesotho and others from among South Africa's 11 official languages.
Zulu Dancer

Traditionally, the Zulu economy depended upon cattle and a considerable amount of agriculture. Villages were economically self-sufficient. Agriculture was the sphere of women, whereas cattle were tended by the men. Crops grown were mealies, Kaffir maize, pumpkins, watermelons, calabashes, native sugar reeds, and various kinds of tubers and beans. Although there was considerable ritual and magic associated with agriculture, the most impressive agricultural ceremonial was the First Fruits ceremony. This was held late in December, and in it the king partook of the new crops. The ceremony also included a magical strengthening of the king and a general military review.
A man's wealth was counted in cattle. Cattle provided the mainstays of the diet (meat and amasi, a form of soured milk), hides for clothing and shields, as well as the means of acquiring wives through lobola, or bride-price. In addition, cattle had enormous ritual value. 
                                                         Cattle in Zululand 
 The Sacrifice of cattle was the central religious rite and the means of propitiating ancestors. Zulu life has changed substantially in modern South Africa. The Zulu like most rural black South Africans are poor. Traditional economic patterns do not generate adequate income. The women continue to remain at home and pursue subsistence agriculture. The men seek work in the cities, but because their educational achievements are commonly limited, the opportunities are commonly limited to low paying jobs. Cattle continue to be the primary symbol of wealth, although modern Zulus often have only a few herds. As a result, they now rarely slaughter cow for meat, but primarily for ritual purposes. 
                                       Zulu men doing their traditional war dance
Commercial Activities. A dual economy of subsistence horticulture and a market economy was characteristic of the late nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. This situation gradually changed when the Zulu were crowded onto insufficient land and forced to work for money in order to pay taxes.

                                               Zulu woman taking her rest at her she sells her traditional wares

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.

                                              Zulu women selling at the market
Industrial Arts. The Zulu people's main economic activities have traditionally been horticulture and tending cattle and goats. The hoe is the main industrial implement, and the grinding stone was an important implement in the house, although its significance has been fading. Historically, the Zulu also engaged in hunting.
                      Traditional Zulu beer pot - Ukhamba

 That is why they make izagila (knobkerries or assegais) and imikhonto (spears) of tremendous variety and artistic sophistication. Both of these hunting implements were also used in warfare. Sticks and knobkerries also were used in combat competitions organized as part of ceremonial dances. Women made a range of pottery goods used as cooking, storing, and eating utensils.
                                Lidded Basket, ca. 1990s

 Those utensils are still made by those who have learned the trade and are sold in markets. However, cooking is done mostly in steel pots. Palm woven crafts such as baskets, mats, beer strainers, and vessel lids are made for commercial purposes.
Tightly woven Zulu baskets.  These hand woven African baskets are a true art form and are functional, beautiful and decorative as well as a testament to fine weaving skills.  Zulu baskets are considered some of the most collectible baskets in the world.  Master Zulu weavers are published and collected worldwide.

 Zulu beadwork is now mainly made for tourists and specific ceremonies. In a few places traditional Zulu dress is still worn.
Zulu Ceremonial Ax in Beaded Sheath

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:
Positive Meaning
Negative Meaning
Blackmarriage, regenerationsorrow, despair, death
Bluefidelity, a requestill feeling, hostility
Yellowwealth, a garden, industry, fertilitythirst, badness, withering away
Greencontentment, domestic blissillness,discord
Pinkhigh birth, an oath, a promisepoverty, laziness
Redphysical love, strong emotionanger, heartache, impatience
Whitespiritual love, purity, virginity(no negative meaning)

Trade. No major trade was a traditional part of the Zulu culture. However, the KwaZulu-Natal Province is now accessible by sea, air, and road for commercial trade.

Zulu Basket
Division of Labor. The division of labor within a household is mainly between men and women. Traditionally, men provided economic security for the household, protected the household, led ceremonial activities in the household, and did outside physical tasks such as tending livestock, building kraals, and building new houses. Men regard themselves as providers for their households, and to establish the status of a household head, employment is imperative. Women still do the horticultural activities in rural areas. Women are faced with the day-to-day running of the house, including cleaning, washing, cooking, fetching water, and child rearing. Women also take jobs in order to provide for the family's economic needs, but they have assure that the household routine is done either by themselves before and after work or by someone they employ.
Land Tenure. All land in "tribal areas" is under the control of a "chief who allocates land for residential purposes as well as for cultivation at a household head's request. Historically, "chief's" had full authority over the incorporation of people into their chiefdoms. However, their roles were fully absorbed into the colonial system, in which those roles were reduced to that of a tax collector; their land was taken away from them.

                                   The slow paced life of the modern day Zulu people in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands

 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.

                   Houses in KwaZulu-Natal. The round houses, called rondavels are traditional Zulu houses.


Kin Groups and Descent. Surnames are a symbol of identity for individuals and families. Surnames include praise names that reflect the interrelatedness of surnames and important occurrences in the history of the Zulu people. People with the same surname once belonged to the same localized clan.
Prince Gideon Zulu with younger relative dressed in their traditional Zulu attire at the King Shaka Day Celebration in Dukuza.

 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.

                              zulu men
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, nuclear families were the most common operational units of kin. Children depend on their parents as long as they are not married and are not economically independent. The extended family is important for economic assistance and on ritual and ceremonial occasions. Matrilineal kin are also vital and are expected to appear at important ceremonies involving a daughter or sister's children. Children born to unmarried women belong to the mothers' kin.

                    Some of the more important ladies (chiefs and Kings wives) at the Zulu Reed Dance at Enyokeni

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.
                                                 Zulu woman at valley of 1000 hills

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.

                                                               Kings men  of Zulu

 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.
Zulu passages of rites (initiation)
o Ukwemula/ umemulo Ceremony
           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.
The Ukwemula ceremony takes place when a girl desires her marriageable state to be  formally  recognized by her father. The ceremony indicates approval and permission by the father to the girl to be married. When a girl desires her state of readiness for marriage to be recognized, the girl‟s mother, via the  amaqhikiza,reports this to the father and the ceremony is arranged. This ceremony is restricted to older girls who had chosen not to indulge in sex before marriage, but now wish to seek their fathers‟ permission to enter into serious relationships with a view to marriage.

                                                Zulu Maidens
It can only take place if the girl had behaved according to custom and had abstained from sex. Zulu girls, in general, wish to impress their fathers, and for that reason, they generally  behave themselves  in order to earn their fathers‟ approval. The ceremony is an indication that the girl who has reached a marriageable age obeys custom and respects her parents by seeking their permission for courtship.  The ceremony represents public recognition of her readiness to be courted in order to enter into a marriage that is blessed by her parents‟ and other family members.
 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)
The main  function  of this ceremony is that is marks a transitional period from childhood to adulthood and acknowledges the father‟s knowledge about of what is happening to his daughter. It is a precious time for the girl as it marks the point of transition from girlhood to adulthood, courtship and eventual motherhood, blessed by parents and community.
If above custom was still generally respected by the current Zulu youths, it would have  prevented  many of the problems related to teen-aged girls today.    In olden times, the ukwemula was the first step to take when a girl felt that she was ready to be married.
The Umemulo (coming of age) ceremony is a celebration period for the girl who has met the man whom she wants to marry and it also celebrates her good behaviour in abstaining from premarital sex and in seeking her parents‟ permission and approval with regard to marriage. This ceremony has an important function in Zulu culture as it contributes to avoiding unwanted pregnancies. 

                                    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
Also paper money donated by parents, family members, friends and the community is pinned onto the girls‟ hair garments during the ukwemula or umemulo ceremonies.  This firstly serves the practical purpose of assisting her financially and getting her trousseau started and secondly, it signifies the wishes of her community for wealth and physical blessings to accompany her in future married life.

                              Umemulo ceremony
This ceremony cannot be viewed or witnessed except during the time when a certain girl‟s ceremony is organized. In other words one cannot go to the museums or elsewhere to witness an enactment of the ceremony.  This ceremony is seldom witnessed by people outside the community.

                            Umemulo dance                                               
o Umhlanga (The Reed Ceremony)
                                       Zulu maiden`s undergoing virginity test

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.
                              Reed Dancing Virgins
The festival takes its name from the riverbed reeds which are carried by the maidens in a procession several kilometers long and presented to the king in the Royal Enclosures. The Reed Dance is a solemn occasion for the teenagers but it is also an opportunity to show off their singing, dancing and beadwork – the fruits of many, months of excitement and preparation. Beadwork abounds and it is often the only clothing then maidens wear. The function of this ceremony is to encourage unmarried girls to behave well and for this reason a virginity test is carried out to ensure that they are chaste.
                                         Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini`s wife and two daughters

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During the ceremony, girls are expected to harvest reeds by hand and not to use any instrument for the cutting. If the reed cracks when it is severed, it implies that that particular girl has had sexual intercourse with a man before. The entire idea behind the ceremony is to emphasize the importance of chastity for girls prior to marriage. The fear of public exposure and the desire to conform to the peer group (which displays its pursuit of chastity through participation in the ceremony), strongly motivates the girls to abstain from sex prior to marriage.
The procession is usually led by princesses from the Royal Family who are the first to present their reeds to the king, who is flanked by a full regiment of Zulu traditional leaders. The older matrons, who oversee the event and instruct the young girls in their preparation for womanhood, are just as colourfully dressed with ornate headdresses and cowhide skirts.
During this ceremony, girls are also expected not to cover their breasts and buttocks. The vagina, however, is covered by the isigege, which is made of beads. The ceremony takes place before a large crowd comprising of family members, community members and whosoever wishes to attend, with no exception. 
Girls, who are suspected of having had sexual intercourse, are humiliated together with their parents if they attend the ceremony as many men who are wishful to get married attend the ceremony in order to choose their partners in public. This ceremony is, therefore, an important event in the process of selecting a partner with a view to marriage.

                                Maiden`s buttocks wrap for Reed Dance

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In recent times the Zulu King has used the Reed Dance as an opportunity to address social issues most affecting the youth of South Africa such as HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy. Anybody who wishes to witness this ceremony, will have to attend it at Enyokeni on the second Saturday of September. This ceremony is unique and is not enacted anywhere.
             Virgins at the Reed Dance
                                                     Zulu Swazi princess at Reed Dance

o The Tying of the Topknot Ceremony

This ceremony is similar to the Ukwemula ceremony, with the difference that it is a ceremony involving engaged women on the brink of marriage.
 During this ceremony, the girl wears a „topknot‟ (inhloko or isicholo), whereas with the umemulo ceremony no top-knot is worn.Like the umemulo ceremomy, the top-knot ceremony can only be witnessed in real. It takes place anytime of the year. A tourist wishing to witness the ceremony, will have to attend it, as there are no enactments.
Initiation Ceremonies for Boys
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, a tradition that has outraged animal rights activists.
 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
Like the girls, boys have their own ceremonies that are organized as part of the upbringing process. The most important of these are the „Feast of the First Fruits‟ and the „Grouping-up‟ ceremony.

                           Umkhosi Wokweshwama/The First Fruit 
o The Feast of the First Fruits Ceremony (umkhosi omncane)
This ceremony plays a major role in boyhood development. It is a pivotal festival of thanksgiving to the Ancestral Spirits as it is an appeal to them, through prayer and sacrifice, for continued protection and assistance to the boys.

                                     The traditional Zulu first fruit rituals/Doloqina Ukweshwama
It is also a thanksgiving to God for the boys and appeal to Unkulunkulu to protect and help them. As soon as a boy starts having dreams of a sexual nature and starts ejaculating, he is supposed to report this to his peers, who, in turn, will report it to members of the family.  The family then arranges for him to participate in the next First Fruits Ceremony.The ceremony is an acknowledgement of the boys‟ readiness for marriage.
For three days and three nights during November to January, in all royal kraals, the chiefs and their subjects participate in dancing, singing traditional hymns and in praising the ancestral spirits. They also beseech the Great, Great One to protect the crops from hail, drought, insects and diseases. On the final day of Umkhosi the worshipers assemble at the royal cattle-fold to witness the climax of the ceremony,namely a struggle between a fierce bull and a group of unarmed warriors. The bull collapses at the end of the battle, beaten senseless by a hail of clenched fists. It is then stabbed to death by the chief‟s witch-doctors. A great feast follows this.

                                  the Umkhosi Wokweshwama ceremony
It is realized that this ceremony could potentially be viewed negatively by tourists especially those who feel strongly about animal rights. In Spain bullfights have generally lost its appeal to tourists. More recently the Zulu king has been challenged in the South African High court regarding this ceremony. The Court ruled that human rights associated with culture weighed more than the rights of animals. 
File:Umkhosi wokweshwama.jpg
              Young men (Amabutho) Killing the bull with their hands During the Ceremony.
The Grouping-up Ceremony (ukubuthwa)
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
This annual ceremony takes place after the „Feast of the first Fruits‟. The boys for whom the ceremony is held are grouped together in regiments, which will each receive a special collective name. This is an ancient custom which goes back very far in history.

Examples of such a grouping are regiments of the King known as
Uphondo lwendlovu formed in 1925 and Intaba Yezulu formed in 1933.39) Following
the ceremony a boy is allowed to start proposing to women in order to marry
 The Traditional Attire
The Zulus wear traditional attire during certain traditional ceremonies, e.g. memuloand weddings. The married women wear a skin cloth (isidwaba) and topknot (isicholo or inhloko) and beadwork, whereas men wear amabheshu, izinene and other items including a headring.

Makoti Zulu attire
It is therefore possible to identify specific Zulu ceremonies by observing the traditional attire which is worn. 

                       President Jacob Zuma and his wife in traditional Zulu attire

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Monogamous marriage is common among the Zulu, even though historically polygamy was encouraged. Polygamy is still practiced, particularly in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Postmarital residence is patrilocal, and a woman often adopts the identity of the household into which she has married even though in daily communication she is called by the surname or name of her father with the prefix Ma- added. Children belong to their father's lineage.
Kings Goodwill Zwelithini S Daughter Flickr Photo Sharing
 The Zulu value marriage, and the process of getting married involves a host of expensive exchanges, with bride-wealth being the main feature, making divorce difficult.

                                                  Zulu  married couples
The Traditional Zulu Wedding (udwendwe).
o Preparations for the Wedding
The first and most important prerequisite of the wedding is that the bridegroom must have paid the dowry to the bride‟s father. The wedding cannot take place if the groom has not paid his lobola in full. The ceremony that marks the passing of cattle from the prospective groom‟s group to the bride-to-be‟s group is called lobola, and the primary motive behind the exchange is to cement the friendship between the two families.

                               Zulu wedding

 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
When the bride is about to leave her home for marriage, a beast known as ukuncamisa or inkomo yokucola is slaughtered and its gall is poured over her face, arms and legs in order to mark the changes that are to take place with regard to her belonging. The beast to be slaughtered is taken from the lobola cattle and the purpose of the gall poured over her is to inform the ancestors that the girl is leaving her family and will be getting married, which will cause a new surname (isibongo) as a result. This is also the time when the girl realises that leaving her family is now a reality. 
Beautiful Zulu girl with hut hairstyle. Circa 1925
Before the  marriage,  the girl  leaves her  umuzi (kraal) while indicating to her relatives, friends and neighbours that she is about to marry and that she expects gifts.  This process, called ukucimela, assists the girl to greet and leave behind her relatives and friends so as to enter a new life. The gifts she receives indicate that they wish her well. In order to show her appreciation, she is expected to cimela to all of them. The  cimela lessens the pressure of family and friends of individually giving expensive gifts and makes it easier for those who do not have enough for themselves.

                                   Zulu bride
The day before she leaves her father‟s home, the young bride accompanies her father on a walk through the cattle byre, to say farewell to her ancestors, as they play a very important role in the lives of the Zulus. The daughter‟s father is to take responsibility for the daughter‟s interaction with  the ancestors, which  is to  take place the day before her departure. 

                        Zulu woman being taken to place of departure with traditional dance
One day before the actual wedding ceremony, the new bride, accompanied by her friends leaves her home covered only in a blanket to indicate to the groom and his family that she is bidding farewell to her old life and starting a new one. It should be noted that all practices in Zulu custom have symbolical meaning. The nakedness of the bride(except for the blanket) shows that she is now leaving her childhood life in preparation for the wedding that is to take place as well as the married family life which is to follow.

                                             Zulu wedding dance

o The Attire for the Wedding
                                                                  Zulu groom`s attire
At the wedding, the bride remains in the centre of the party, hidden from view and dressed in her new isidwaba. She wears head ornaments containing white oxtails (amashoba) on her arms and the  imvakazi,  a  bead decorated veil  of cloth, concealing her face but still enabling her to see.

                                    President Zuma`s wife (C) in typical Zulu bride`s dress

 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
The bride wears ornamental ropes of twisted calfskin and beadwork strung in a coil over her shoulders and under her arms. Bands of white cow-tail fringes are worn around both arms and around the ankles. On her right wrist, she wears the distended gall bladder of the goat which was slaughtered before she left her father‟s kraal.
 The gall bladder on the wrist also  distinguishes her  from  guests  at the wedding ceremony. The bride is furthermore ornamented with various patterns of beadwork covering her breasts and wears a plume of black fink tail feathers on her head. She carries a short assegai or knife in her right hand and points this to her husband-to-be while dancing, signifying that she is a virgin.

                                             Zulu wedding Dance
In her left hand, the bride carries the ihawu.It should be noted that the assegai mentioned earlier on is carried together with the ihawu - a Zulu shield made from cattle skin. Shields are used by men for defence when in battle or when fighting. It is further used by men and women when Zulu dancing takes place. 

 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
The groom is adorned with the regalia of his forefathers, namely a  head ring of cheetah skin, which is worn only by married men, denoting the status equivalent to that of the head of a village. Like the bride, the groom will hold an ihawu in his left hand and a knobkierrie or oxtail in his right hand. His body is ornamented with spangles of bright beadwork strung (ucu) around his neck and waist. The groom is the only person who wears this specific attire at the ceremony and it is thus easy to identify him. Should a tourist wish to see the colourful Zulu cultural attire, the Zulu traditional wedding provides the perfect opportunity to do so.

                    Zulu groom and his white wife in their traditional wedding dress
Domestic Unit. The typical domestic unit includes a man, his wife or wives, and their children. In some households the parents of the man form part of the unit as the most senior household members and direct most of the activities of the household.

 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
Inheritance. Inheritance of property is along the patrilineal line. Inheritance of important positions such as a "chiefship" follows the pattern of primogeniture.
                                                                   Zulu woman
Socialization. Children are socialized to adhere to the division of labor that associates women with running the inside of the house and men with managing the economic, outside, and public relations of the household.

                                                          Zulu child in a village,cooling off

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 men in their traditional attire

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Social status is traditionally encapsulated in respect for kinship positions and leadership. Just as there is respect for the household head and patrilineal kin, there is general respect for men as the principal carriers of identity and tremendous respect for the inkos ("chief) and his kin as the royal household of the chiefdom.
                                              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.

                                                            Zulu man

Political Organization. The Zulu have a monarch who commands respect from a large number of people who live under the immediate authority of their amakhosi ("chief's"). Amakhosi pay respect to the king by attending the House of Traditional Leaders and mobilize support for festivities organized by the king.

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
Social Control. The Zulu have been influenced by individualism to some extent. Although the older generation boasts of a time when disciplining the younger generation was the responsibility of everyone in the community, most people tend to mind their own business. Institutions such as the church and the family have limited control of people's behavior, but sanctions are not imposed as communally as the older generation has led people to believe. Punishment of specific misbehavior is also a responsibility of institutions such as schools, the police, and the Tribal Authority (the chief's' structure of governance).

                                        Zulu chieftains

Conflict. Conflict occasionally arose between chiefdoms, particularly over boundaries. Colonial land policies and relocations exacerbated those conflicts. In the early twenty-first century such conflicts usually led to feuding between the concerned parties and the intervention of other state institutions, such as the police, the defense force, and the courts. Other kinds of conflict involved clashes between political parties over political issues. In the precolonial period there was some conflict between tribes over property or boundaries and as a result of attempts by some groups to subdue others and expand their boundaries, which occasionally involved non-Zulu groups such as the Xhosa in the south and some BaSotho groups.

                                      Zulu Chieftains dancing

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Zulu people have a strong belief in the potency of their ancestors. Their cosmology is characterized by God in various forms: uMvelingqangi (a male god responsible for all life), uNomkhubulwano (a female god who provides food security, particularly through good harvests), and a god for the control of weather, particularly thunder. Their cosmology also includes ancestors who can have a significant positive impact on their families' lives if they are appeased.Especially important in traditional mythology were the ancestors who watched over the people today, as well as creatures that were part human and part lizard. Spirits were also thought to exist in animals, in the forest and in caves.
                       Zulu men
AMADLOZI were the Zulu ancestors. People can appeal to the spirit world by invoking these ancestors.
INKOSAZANA was a female spirit that makes the maize (corn) grow, the goddess of agriculture. She is worshipped in the spring.
INTULO was a lizard-like creature with human characteristics.

MAMLAMBO was the goddess of the rivers.

                      Swazi King,Mswati (a zulu) leading the Maidens at Umhlanga (Reed Dance)

MBABA MWANA WARESA was the goddess of rainbows, rain, crops, and cultivation. She is also beloved because she gave the gift of beer.
TIKDOSHE is an evil dwarf. It resembles the Chiruwi and the Hai-uri (one arm, one leg, one side), and likes to fight humans. Losing against Tikdoshe can mean death for the humans, but victory can give a man great magical powers.
                Zulu woman with a unique tribal facial marks
UHLAKANYANA was a mythical dwarf and trickster.
UMVELINQANGI was the sky god who descended from heaven and married Uthlanga. In some versions of the creation story, he created the reeds that Unkulunkulu came from. He shows himself to people as thunder and earthquakes.
UNKULUNKULU (sometimes spelled Nkulunkulu) was the creator of all things. He grew out of a reed and when he became too heavy he fell to earth. This word also means "ancestor" in the Zulu language.
UNWABA was a mythical chameleon. He was sent by the Sky God to tell the people and creatures of the earth that they had immortal life. Because he was too slow the people and creatures of earth did not become immortal after all. Chameleons turn from green to brown because they are sad that Unwaba was too slow.
UTHLANGA (sometimes spelled Uhlanga) was a large mythical marsh with reeds in the North, from which the creation came into existence. 
The Zulu cosmology also includes the potency of the natural world, particularly herbs and animals when made into umuthi (medicine), which can be used or abused to affect people negatively or positively. This is done mainly in the realm of traditional medicine.
                                                  Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulus
Christianity has significantly influenced the Zulu. The majority of the Zulu combine traditional religious beliefs with Christianity; there are also those who profess to be entirely converted to Christianity, mostly those who adhere to the evangelical Christian traditions.

                             Zulu diviners
Religious Practitioners. The Zulu religion is essentially household-based. It is characterized by an obligation by household heads to fulfill the necessary ceremonial rituals. These ceremonies often require the sacrifice of domestic animals (usually goats) and addressing the ancestors by burning impepho, an incense herb.
                                                             Zulu diviner
There are African indigenous churches that combine aspects of Western Christianity with Zulu ways of communicating with ancestors. These churches have priests and healers who dedicate themselves to these practices for the benefit of the people who consult them. Diviners have traditionally existed among the Zulu and diagnose the causes of illnesses and misfortunes. The diagnosis often relates to dissatisfied ancestors or evil manipulation of umuthi for harmful effects (witchcraft).
Arts. The Zulu are known for pottery. The art of making and decorating pots remains an important skill for Zulu women. Bead work and grass and palm weaving are also essential arts and crafts. Skill and creativity determine the extent of fame of an artist. Artistic woodcarving by men is done in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
Zulu man

Medicine. Medicine takes two forms. First, there is the kind of medicine that targets physical ailments and deals with the physiological problems of the human body. Second, there is medicine that works magically to produce a negative or positive impact on those toward whom it is directed. This type of medicine is used more like a weapon and is often implicated in the acts of animosity people level against each other. Zulu people use Western medical practitioners as well, but the relationship between the two systems of healing is not characterized by mutual respect. However, most Zulu people use both systems, depending on what they perceive to be the source of their problems.
Maidens at Umhlanga (Reed dance)

Zulu Healing
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). 
Zulu traditional healer

Traditional healers connect with the presence of uMvelinqangi (the First Creator) that exist within the universe and iradiate the expression of that which operates in opposition to uMvelinqangi. The healer either presents substance in the form of medicine or provides a healing environment (divination) for uMveliqangi to be fully expressed within the sick person and community.

 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).

Traditional healers

According to Buckland and Binger (1992), Zulu practitioners of divination, sorcery, and healing
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. 
The colors of the medicines are imithi emnyama (black medicine), imithi ebomvu (red medicine) and imithi emhlophe (white medicine). Amakhubalo (herbal medicine) is organized according to color are:
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).
 It is during the ukuthwasa (transforming experience such as a seizure or near death experience) that the person communicates with entities of the spiritual realm that inform her/him what s/he needs to do. Following the experience, the person goes to study under an accomplished isangoma who diagnoses illnesses through communicating with the amadlozi (ancestral shades). Buckland and Binger state:
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).
Khekhekhe with a python.
Khekhekhe performs his ritual with a variety of snakes. This happens once a year and you are welcome to go along with the Zululand Backpackers in Eshowe.
The roles for an inyanga and a isangoma remain distinct and complimentary. The sangoma is consulted to determine the etiology of a problem. After the cause of an illness has been determined, then the sangoma refers the person to medical treatment from another practitioner.
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). 
Sangoma and her assistant

The Nomkhubulwane ceremony is a rites of passage ceremony that functions as a reintroduction in the Zulu community to assist with addressing the AIDS crisis that is occurring in South Afrika. The traditional healers not only inform the girls of their purpose in life, they also help the girl know how to maintain good health. In this case the traditional healers are curative and preventative. Since there is a high premium placed on being
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.

traditional healer

Traditional healers cure and heal sickness and disorders including:
 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.

traditional healers

 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
intercourse, menstruation.
 Umkhondo omubi – a dangerous track or ecological health hazard such as lightening.

traditional healer

Death and Afterlife. Death is regarded as a time of tremendous loss. A death by illness is treated differently from a death by "a spill of blood." Accidents and death by murder are regarded as deaths by "a spill of blood," and medicinal healing is expected to accompany the funerals in these cases in order to stop such misfortune (ukuvala umkhokha). Generally, deaths are considered polluting, and various rituals and ceremonies must be observed to slowly remove the impurity. These rituals also serve to gradually send the deceased into the next world.

Zulu (amaZulu) Ancestors and Ritual Exchange
One of the fundamental ideas in ancestral-based religions, such as that of the Zulu, or amaZulu (a more accurate term), is that of the life-force, essence or energy which exists in all animate and inanimate phenomenon, including animals, plants, and various geographical or even atmospheric features. This life-force is in constant circulation and although it is indestructible it may be converted, exchanged and utilized in different ways by humans, for good or bad intent. The following account describes these dynamics in the context of Zulu notions of the ancestral and spirit worlds.
                                Zulu women
According to Harriet Ngubane, the Zulu collective term for all the departed spirits is amathongo. Zulus believe that when a person dies the life-force exits the body in the form of a shadow, or spirit, known as isithunzi. The spirit enters a liminal phase where it is “betwixt and between” the living and the ancestral worlds. Among the Zulu, certain tasks have to be performed by living members of the agnatic (male) kin group to help get these spirits empowered, purified and “cleaned,” in order that they may join the benevolent ancestral body (amadlozi) that has an important role in protecting and guiding descendants. 
This usually involves a series of sacrificial rituals that should be performed after a certain lapse of time (usually within a year) after physical death. The final ritual of incorporation of a departed spirit, known as ukubuyisa, signifies the return of the ancestor (idlozi) to the home. Departed individuals who have lived good moral lives and attained the status of elder are regarded as the most active of the amadlozi, as they are the most concerned with the well-being of the living. Typically it is believed that a person's deceased parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are more interested in their descendants, although the more remotely distant ancestors are regarded as participating at rituals held in their honor and can still influence and have interest in the affairs of the living.

 The ancestors are regarded as being present in the homestead and should be treated with respect befitting that of elders. They should be kept informed of any events and changes that have occurred within the homestead, such as a change of family residence, work or fortunes. They should be actively informed of all the “life crisis” stages that require “rites of passage,” such as the birth of children, attainment of adolescence and adulthood, marriage and death. 
They can be consulted for advice and guidance on any problem facing the family and they are seen to act as a protective force against evil. In their purified state they are seen as being close to God and in the context of Christianity they are often equated with the angels, who have the power to directly appeal to God on behalf of the living. When they are forgotten they are regarded as no longer having adequate strength to protect the living and they withdraw their support, leaving the family vulnerable to attack by hostile forces. However they do not disappear and their potential to intervene always exists, should the appropriate steps be taken by the living to empower them.

Zulu Hats - Zulu Headdress

Human Hair & Fabric Hats worn by Zulu Women

A Celebration of Zulu Creativity - Isicolo\

Some Background


                                            Mariann Hill Monastery                                                     Circa 19th Century Postcard                

Throughout the 19th century - Zulu women sported coiffures that protruded upwards from the back of the head.


Postcards - Circa 1920
The coiffures were prestigious, admired and in some cases, up to a meter long.



                                        Slide -  Barbara Tyrrell @ Copyright                                          Photograph by Barbara Tyrrell @ Copyright

Zulu hair fashions developed into removable hats as a result of European contact.

Slide by Barbara Tyrrell @ Copyright

Small amounts of human hair remained a part of each creation, suggesting that the removable coiffure remained an extension of the persons head.


Zulu Hat number 566.

Zulu Hat number 566 is made of palm fiber, cord, fabric, hard board, ochre and human hair.


Photographs by Barbara Tyrrell @ Copyright

Amounts of beadwork were attached to hats at the occasion of a wedding.


Zulu Hat number 566 includes an iron mount.

Women constructed the foundation of the hat on a lightweight frame of basketwork. Traditionally Zulu men were the weavers, but by this time so many were working in the mines, the task had become woman's work.

Related hats - Zulu Shembe Festival - South African TRIBAL LIFE TODAY - Pg 135

Mid 20th century postcards.

The ease of a hat's removal allowed for the girth of the object to increase, while the basketry coil technique allowed  the body to flare.

South African TRIBAL LIFE TODAY - Pages 44 and 45 - Photography Jean Morris

As the size of the hats increased, both human hair and knotted or stitched woven fabric were used to cover and decorate the coiled basketry frame. Hats were attached around the forehead with a band of fabric tied to the rear.

Click either thumbnail for enlargement. 

Zulu hat number 8726

Lamb's wool was also used in the place of human hair. Item 8726 above is a rare example of a combination of human hair and lamb's wool used to cover the structure. Note that the mounting technique used in our displays, allows the hat to be viewed from different directions.

Zulu Hat number 577  + - 50 centimetres wide.

The Zulu hat above represents the largest form of Zulu human hair hat known to us. In addition, Zulu hats this thin are rare, as evidenced above right. Even so, basketry work remained coiled grass fibre. Modern Zulu women often walk with an umbrella to shade them from the sun. During the overlapping fashion period that pertains to these large Zulu hats, the need for an umbrella largely fell away. 

Zulu Hat number 579 + - 50 centimetres wide.

Our Zulu hats do not have large black circles, stars or silly crosses at their centre. This is because we do not invent or tamper with artefacts like some other dealers. The mentioned markings were NOT traditionally  found on Zulu hats and therefore are NOT correct.

Zulu Hat number 580 + - 50 centimetres wide.

Larger resolution images of all hats are available on request.

Flared Zulu Human Hair Hat

The Zulu - Alice Mertens Page 48 and 44

Fabric Zulu Hats

Zulu Hat number 581 

Over time, human hair hats gave way to those covered entirely with cotton fibre as above.

Zulu Hat number 581 + - 46 centimetres wide.

Thousands of stitches added strength and appeal, while the inner construction remained sturdy basketry work.

Zulu Hat number 7078

Our large fabric hats are old and well used, apparent from the tie down fabric. Though not always shown, each Zulu hat includes a custom made iron stand.

Zulu Hat number 7078

 Slide by Barbara Tyrrell @ Copyright

Smaller Zulu hats appeared from 1980, and were also used at weddings.

Decorative Zulu Hats

A South African  Bus Trailer

They became smaller due to the evolution of South African transport law. Since the first half of the 20th century, rural and local transport had been provided exclusively by large government owned buses or 'bus trailers'. These bus-trailers were for the most part driven by white drivers who hauled their black passengers around. The configuration of the vehicles used is shown above. It physically separated blacks from whites.

Postcard depicting a Zulu woman wearing a smaller fabric hat, circa 1980.

The 'inside' story: Twenty three people and a goat pack into a South African minibus taxi.

From the early 1980's, all race groups in South Africa were allowed to apply for a transport license. At this point large Zulu hats fell out of fashion for practical reasons. With limited space, large hats were un-functional in minibus taxis.

                                                            Zulu Hat number 8742                                                                 Zulu Hat number 8643

Our smaller Zulu hats from this period are displayed with a black ring mount and  if preferred, easily removed.

Click Thumbnail for Larger Image

Ring Reverse

As with the larger human hair hats, the mounts were designed to please the eye from all directions.

Swaziland Reed Dance -

zulu kids dancing in south africa

Zulu dancers

Umoja at Trafalgar

Zulu Cultural Show - Women Dancing

Image Title
Swazi Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini takes part in the annual Reed Dance at Ludzidzini, the royal palace in Swaziland


President Zuma and three of his five wives

king Mswati of swaziland

South African President Jacob Zuma performs during the traditional wedding ceremony for his daughter Duduzile Zuma and Lonwabo Sambudla, former head of Lembede Investment Holdings, on April 23 near Mthatha, Eastern Cape.

king Mswati`s wife

Swazi princess holding a staff

Zulu Swazi Princess

Twin sisters at Umhlanga (Reed Dance)

Image Title
Swazi Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini takes part in the annual Reed Dance at Ludzidzini, the royal palace in Swaziland.

Image Title
Some of King Mswati's 13 wives (wearing red) leave after joining the maidens for a dance during the annual Reed Dance at Ludzidzini, the royal palace in Swaziland. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Image Title


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