The Beginning of the Zulu in Africa
Zulu history, customs and traditions are among the most exciting, fascinating and humbling known to us today.
However there are not many people in the world who fully understand the history of the Zulu Nation, while any attempt at summarising it is never easy.
Below is an attempt by Zulu-Gifts at retelling a handful of stories about this great nation.
The stories are based on our own research and opinion, as it would be impossible for us to write completely void of emotion and favourable bias! Zulu-Gifts hope you enjoy reading our stories about this exciting history and rich culture.
Early Migration in Africa
Zulu ancestors formed part of the Nguni people who lived in the Great Lakes region of Central and East Africa. To this day the mythical homeland of the Nguni people is still referred to as 'Embo' by Zulu story tellers.
It is worth noting that the Nguni people themselves, are said to have originally travelled south from Egypt via the Red Sea and Ethiopia.
The 16th century was a time of plenty for the Nguni people and resulted in a rapid expansion of the population. This expansion led to some of the Nguni people migrating South and South-East, in search of new land.
There was one man in particular who travelled South and his name was Zulu or 'Heaven'. He was both courageous and adventurous, eventually travelling as far South as the Mkhumbane River basin. Here he settled naming the area KwaZulu or 'Place of Heaven'. KwaZulu was a fertile land and Zulu tribes or 'amaZulu', spread rapidly across the region.
The African Zulu King, Shaka Zulu
Then in 1787 a young man named Shaka Zulu was born who soon became king of the Zulus. Shaka was both a ruthless leader and military genius, uniting the Zulu kingdom under his rule.
He introduced highly effective battle tactics such as the 'Bull's Horns' formation and equally deadly weapons such as the stabbing spear or 'iklwa', so named becuase of the sound it makes when thrusted into another man's chest!
In 1824 Shaka was injured in a failed assasination attempt on his life. He survived only after the British adventurer Henry Francis Fynn, who was staying in Port Natal (Durban), provided him with the urgent medical support and assistance he beeded. To show his gratitude, Shaka handed over Port Natal to the British crown.
At the age of 41 Shaka Zulu was murdered by his half-brother Dingane, who subsequently took his place on the throne. During this time, the British colony situated in Port Natal, was growing rapidly and Dingane began to see this as a threat to the Zulu kingdom.
War & Conflict in South Africa
However it was the 'Boers' of Dutch heritage, migrating northwards from Cape Town, that first met King Dingane in battle.
During one of the first interactions between the Boers and the Zulus, the Boer leader Piet Retief was murdered. In retaliation the Zulus were attacked and ended up losing a famous battle to the Boers at Blood River. Dingane himself was finally assasinated in 1840 and with the support of the Boers, a new Zulu leader named Mpande took power.
Not long afterwards further conflict broke out, this time between the Boers and the British in Port Natal. Following a British victory, the Zulu King Mpande switched allegiance to the British from the Boers and subsequently agreed regional borders with the British Crown. Mpande eventually died of natural causes and was replced by King Cetshwayo.
Then in 1878, the British Crown issued an ultimatum to the Zulus under the famous 'Ultimatum Tree'. The terms of the ultimatum were drawn up in such a way that it was impossible for the new Zulu King to adhere to them. War followed between the two nations while King Cetshwayo fled North.
Early in the conflict British forces were defeated at the base of 'Isandlwana Hill' in a vicious battle. Later that same day the famous battle of 'Rorkes Drift' took place, where the so called 'heroic hundred' earned themselves 11 Victorian Crosses by repelling 4,000 Zulus. This is the most VC's ever awarded in a single military engagement!
With superior fire power, the British eventually defeated the Zulu forces and created thirteen autonomous Zulu chiefdoms.
Civil war ensued between the Zulu chiefdoms and the Zulu King Cetshawo was forced to return to stabilise the region. Zululand remained under the rule of Queen Victoria during the 19th century with the Zulu King's position reduced to that of a traditional leader, employed by the British governement.
Even after South Africa gained independance and the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, the Zulu King remained a figurehead with little real power over Zululand.
Resolution & Happiness in South Africa
South Africa held it's first ever free elections in 1994 with Nelsen Mandela being elected President. This was a momentus event in South Africa's history and with it came new freedoms and a renewed sense of pride!
The Zulu nation was uplifted and the Zulu monarchy is now protected by the South African constitution, with King Goodwill Zwelithini recognised as the current Zulu King.
Fortunately for the world, many of the traditions and customs are still practised today despite the influences of modern day life.
To experience and learn about the Zulu nation is one of the most fulfilling and inspiring ventures available to us today!