Zulu Traditions & Culture
Zulu & African Ancestors
Despite the influences of modern day living, many Zulu people have maintained their traditional customs and traditions.
Their social structure is based on etiquette and
respect, especially when it involves their ancestors "amadlozi". They are still very much revered and Zulu people go to great lengths to keep them happy by making sacrifices and offerings.
Superstitions play a significant role in Zulu culture and the community's traditional healer
"Sangoma", will often be consulted if it's felt the ancestors are unhappy or evil spirits are causing wrongdoing.
In fact a Sangoma often accompanys the local football team to their matches, providing protection against evil spirits and asking the ancestors to help the team win!
Zulu & African Beadwork
Zulu arts and crafts are fascinating, not only for their beauty but also the social values the crafts often convey.
In particular is Zulu beadwork "ubuhlalu" where traditional colours, designs and patterns are woven together with immense finesse and skill. The art of beadwork is a craft passed on from generation to generation and from mother to child.
Every colour has a different meaning and Zulu women skillfully weave messages of love, grief, jealousy, poverty or uncertainty into the patterns. Young Zulu girls "Izintombi" will often use their beadwork to send "Zulu love letters'" as a gift to their loved ones.
The recipient will wear the gift proudly around his neck so that everyone can see. If he then later chooses to marry the girl, he will have to offer cattle as a dowry to her father.
Meanings of Zulu African beads:
Black: Mourning, loneliness & disappointment
Green: Lovesickness or jealousy
Red: Tears and desire
Striped beads: Doubt
Beads were first made from coloured stones, sea shells, ivory, bones and colourful wood. Later on glass beads brought to Africa by European traders were bartered and highly sought after due to their 'mystical' abilities.
Zulu & African Baskets
South Africa is well known for it's beautiful hand-woven Zulu baskets, which are sought after and collected worldwide. The baskets are very skillfully created, being both functional and decorative.
The main material used in the basket's production is the split leaves of the 'iLala' palm. Patterns are created on the leaves by using natural dyes from bark, berries, leaves, clay, roots and dung found in the region.
The colours and patterns created in the basket are often unique to the maker and incorporate traditional African designs.
There are various types of baskets, with those used for carrying water "Isichumo" or storing beer "Ukhamba" being crafted watertight. The grasses will swell with moisture from the water/beer and seal the basket.
Other baskets which are not watertight are created for storing herbs and grain, while open baskets are used for serving purposes. Traditionally they had a wide variety of uses both in household chores and for ceremonial purposes.
Zulu & African Food & Drink
Traditional beer "Utshwala" made from sorghum and brewed by women is still enjoyed today. It is prepared in a clay pot "ukhamba" and served in a single gourd.
Everyone in the hut will take turns drinking from the gourd, in order of seniority.
Maize products form the basis of Zulu foods and eating is done using a wooden bowl and wooden spoon, although enamel plates and mugs are used these days.
Zulus are meat-eaters by nature but due to it's cost nowadays, meat is only eaten at special occastions when a cow, sheep or goat will be slaughtered.
Zulu & African Clothing
As you may expect, Zulu clothing is very descriptive of the wearer's status and stage in life.
Men wear animal skins and feathers while women tend to wear grass skirts and beads. Even leopard skins are worn on rare occasions but only by the Royal Zulu family.
Most Zulul boys and young men wear shorter skins which aids in hunting and fighting, while older men wear skins down to their ankles.
In general the older the woman, the more her body will be covered. She will also have numerous markings, jewellary and beadwork illustrating the woman's availability, age and status within the community. Clothing can be quite intricate, mirrowing the clear and strict social structure.
Zulu & African Dancing
Dancing and singing activities play a major role in the daily life of Zulu people.
There are numerous styles of Zulu dancing such as the hunting dance, the warlike battle cry dance or the gentle tidal dance. Each dance movement describes an event or story taking place within the community. Each dance involves an enormous amount of energy and passion making the event a real honour to experience.
In recent decades African songs of freedom were frequently sung to unify the Zulu people and challenge the 'apartheid' government of the day. The government continued to suppress many South Africans right up until the first democratic elections held in 1994.
These songs of resistance are still sung today and many of the songs have been adopted by all South Africans.
Stick fighting "umshiza" is still practised today by Zulu men. It is used as a sport/competition or more seriously as a method of resolving personal differences in public. It can be very dangerous with participants frequently being knocked out unconscience and blood drawn.
This activity has it's roots in the reign of Shaka Zulu and is a stark reminder of his ruthless military influence in Africa.
Conclusion of Zulu Culture
There are countless more interesting facts, breath-taking adventures and exciting stories about Zulu history, traditions and culture.
However if you want to fully experience these, you may want to consider a visit to the Zulu kingdom itself, located in KwaZulu-Natal, south Africa!
Various tour operators are avaiable and they can tailor the experience you are looking for or provide you with fully prepared tour packages (see below). There are endless unique activities and thrilling sights to see in the Zulu kingdom.
Being a very safe area to travel to, with exceptionally hospitable people, it is of no surprise why this region of South Africa has experienced such high growth rates in tourism over the past few years. We would strongly encourage you to share these incredible African experiences as soon as you can!
The humble yet mighty warrior nation of the Zulu people, together with their wonderful rich history, are arguably the most well-known and exciting of all African tribes throughout the African continent. Together they say to you "Sanibona, Ngiyanemukela!!!"
South African Holiday Websites
Zulu Traditions & Culture Websites
South African Gifts Websites
Zulu Phrase Websites