Are you a lover of culture? The African cultures are among the best cultures that you will ever come across in the world. Bearing that idea in mind, you have not explored the African culture if you have not done some digging on the Zulu culture. These people will leave you fascinated and wishing for at least one day experience with them.
"People of Heavens" is the term that the Zulu tribe use to refer to themselves. Why the name? The word means 'Heaven' and the Zulu people, AmaZulu, are, therefore 'The People of Heaven'. Their home KwaZulu is the 'Place of Heaven'. They are the largest ethnic group of South Africa, with an estimated 10 million in number in KwaZulu-Natal.
What is interesting about Zulu culture?
Everything about this culture is fascinating. From the Zulu traditional clothing, food, dances, weddings to their history; everything about them is worth your time. Below is what the culture of these people entails.
'isiZulu' is the language of these people and about 10 million residents are fluent in the language. It became one of South Africa's 11 official languages in 1994. It is the second most widely spoken language of the Bantu languages, after Swahili.
What is the history of the Zulu?
You have probably heard of the name 'Shaka Zulu', and you wonder who is he and is he even a real person? There are several myths about these people, but Shaka Zulu is not of them. It is essential to know a bit of the history of these people if you want to learn about Shaka Zulu facts. The Zulu kingdom emerged in the 19th century. It had different clans with different Zulu clan names. It was under the reign of Shaka, who took over as king after the death of his father, Senzangakhona.
Note: Shaka was an illegitimate son. His mother - Nandi, and he had previously been exiled, but he became king with the help of Dingiswayo, leader of the Mthethwa Paramount.
Under his reign from 1816 until 1828, he initiated many militaries, social, cultural and political reforms, forming a well-organized and centralized state. Also, under him, an army of 50,000 emerged and defeated other clans. He created many military tactics to defeat the enemy. He created the 'Assegai' (short, sizeable bladed stabbing spear) and the lethal means to utilize the weapon.
He used no cowhide sandals since he considered them less comfortable when walking. He was a great and brilliant leader, and his military skills were unmatched. The death of his mother dealt a significant blow to him, making him lose his mind and in his grief, killing many of his subjects. Seeing him as a threat to the clan, his half-brothers, Dingaan and Mhlangana, assassinated him. Dingaan then took over the throne.
In 1887, the British annexed Zululand. In 1980, the apartheid government moved the Zulu to KwaZulu Bantustan intended as their semi-independent homeland. The current name of the area is KwaZulu-Natal, one of the country's nine provinces.
As he was a great leader, you might take an interest in some of Shaka Zulu quotes:
- "It's easy to have chemistry when nobody is sitting on the bench."
- "Flowers are born, and they wither..."
How does Zulu homestead look like?
The traditional settlement of these South Africans is called "Umuzi". This homestead makes a spherical shape comprised of huts. The homestead head, Umnumzana, rules it.
The huts are the composition of sapling poles placed in a circle, bending inwards and lashing together to make the frame. After the structure is complete, it is thatched with grass. To make their floors, they used cow dung and anthill clay.
How do Zulus dress?
There are different traditional clothing for different occasions. However, it is easy to note how their mode of dressing is colourful and diverse.
You can also learn a lot by looking at how someone has dressed in this culture. For instance, women tend to dress more respectfully and cover most of their bodies after getting married.
On the other hand, you can know the status of a man in the society by checking the type of skin used to make his clothes. That is so because clothes for men consist of skin and feathers.
In this modern-day era, they still wear traditional Zulu attire on special occasions.
What food and beverages do they have?
Modern diets have influenced how these people eat. However, they still incorporate their indigenous foods.
When eating, they like doing it communally whereby several families cook together. Their foods include farmed and native foods.
Some of the common farmed foods are tomatoes and pumpkins. They mix these foods with Jew's mallow, cassava, umfino (wild spinach), and amadumbe.
Porridge is another regular dish in this culture. They even have different porridge dishes known as isijeza, iphalishi elimuncu, and iphalishi. The three are pumpkin-based, milk-based, and butter bean-based, respectively.
Part of their cuisine include vegetables added to porridge. They also serve stir-fries alongside cassava, blackjack, umfino, and amadumbe.
Amazi milk is commom among the Zulu culture. To prepare this food, they add milk to a gourd and set it to curdle.
These people are also into grains and fruits. They use sorghum, mobola plum, and maize to make traditional beer.
For the fruits, they like eating them while fresh. The mobola plum provide a good substitute for almonds.
The main cultural dishes consist of cooked maize, potatoes and pumpkins.
A regiment of warriors in this culture is called an Impi. Each Impi had each approximately 1,000 strong young boys. Zulu commanders identified regiments on the battlefield by their colours.
Men addressed their disputes in public in a duel that involved stick fighting.
Burials - These people believe that life doesn't end with death but continues in the spiritual world. Death is seen as a person's more profound connection with all creation. Every person who dies within the tribe must be buried traditionally. If not done the traditional way, the deceased may become a restless spirit.
Weddings - A wedding is called Umabo. It usually takes place after a white wedding.
The dowry ceremony (Lobola) precedes a wedding.
Izibizo and Umbondo is an event where the bride offers groceries as gifts for her husband's family.
On the big day, the Zulu girl who is the bride changed her clothes several times in an attempt to showcase her beauty. You can learn more about their weddings on the newly launched 'Zulu Wedding Book" by Dudu Busani.
Zulu songs and dances
There are many dances in the Zulu tradition that celebrate different areas of life. On that same line of thought, there were wedding dances, burial dances and other occasions. Examples of dances include:
Songs are an essential part of the Zulu too and sang during different events and are accompanied by dances with beats from drums, ingungu.
Religion is a significant part in the lives of these people. Most of them are Christians. However, others have retained traditional beliefs, which pre-date their conversion to Christianity and instead favour the worship of ancestors.
What are some of the beautiful Zulu words?
- Izwe (Country)
- Ngokudla (Food)
- Bacabanga (Thought)
- Ulwandle (sea)
- Ebusuku (night)
- Udle (eat)
- Umngani (friend)
- Ntaba (mountain)
- Ihhashi (horse)
- Izingane (children)
There are other beautiful words in this culture. You have to interact with the people to hear and learn them.
Interesting facts about Shaka Zulu
- This Zulu man forbade his troops from marrying
- During his wars, he killed everyone else but spared the lives of bushmen.
- He greatly loved his mother
- He killed his half-brother and stole the king's throne
- He has his public holiday
The Zulu culture is one of the most exciting African cultures. Everything about them can be an overstretch for one article like this. Taking time to interact with them is the best way to learn about them. Every bit of the experience will be worth remembering.
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