LOCATION: KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa, urban areas
POPULATION: 23.8% of South Africa's 47.4 million people are Zulu-speakers
LANGUAGE: IsiZulu (mother tongue)
RELIGION: Traditional beliefs, Christianity, and syncretic religions
For many people, the Zulu are the best-known African people. Their military exploits led to the rise of a great kingdom that was feared for a long time over much of the African continent. They have a royal line that can be traced back to Shaka, the king of the Zulu during the 19th century. Shaka built his kingdom from small tribes that resided in what is today the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. The Zulu are the descendants of Nguni-speaking people. Their written history can be traced back to the 14th century, when they migrated southward from the east to settle in what is now South Africa. Archaeological excavations on early Iron Age sites indicate that people ancestral to the Nguni-speaking peoples of KwaZulu were settled there from about 1500. At that time, all the Nguni tribes of the area were autonomous; however, some were more powerful than others.
In the early 19th century a young prince, Shaka, from the Zulu tribe came onto the scene and welded most of the Nguni tribes into the powerful Zulu Kingdom. Shaka ruled from 1816 until he was assassinated by his brothers in 1828. During his reign, Shaka recruited young men from all over the kingdom and trained them in his own novel warrior tactics. After defeating competing armies and assimilating their people, Shaka established his Zulu nation. Within twelve years, he had forged one of the mightiest empires the African continent has ever known. Few leaders in history have accomplished so much so quickly. However, during the late 1800s, British troops invaded Zulu territory and divided the Zulu land into 13 chiefdoms. In 1906, a section of the Zulus under chief Bambatha attempted a rebellion against the British, but they were defeated by a better-equipped British force.
The Zulu never regained their independence. Throughout the mid-1900s they were dominated by different white governments, first the British and later on the Afrikaner. In the period leading up to South Africa's first democratic election in 1994 and continuing into the 21st century, the Zulu endeavored to regain a measure of political autonomy via the Inkatha Freedom Party. They have been unsuccessful, however, both with the National Party government and the African Nationalist Congress-dominated government. As of 2008, the president of the majority ANC party was Jacob Zuma, who is Zulu by birth.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
Approximately 75% of the Zulu-speaking people live in Kwa-Zulu-Natal Province of South Africa, while the remaining 25% are scattered throughout the other South African provinces. KwaZulu-Natal is situated between 27° to 31°s and 29° to 31°e. It borders on Mozambique in the north, Eastern Cape province of South Africa in the south, the Indian Ocean in the east, and Lesotho in the west. The provincial capital is Pietermaritzburg. KwaZulu-Natal constitutes 92,180 square kilometers (35,590 square miles), which is 7.6% of the total area of South Africa. It is a semi-fertile region with a flat coastal plain, highlands to the west, and numerous rivers and streams. The subtropical climate brings lots of sunshine and brief, intense rain showers.
Some 23.8% of South Africa's total population of 47.4 million are Zulu-speaking. While many Zulu still live in traditionally orientated rural communities, others have migrated to urban areas. However, links between urban and rural residents remain strong. A mixture of traditional and Western ways of life is clearly evident in the lives of almost all Zulu people. With urbanization, rural people have been affected directly and indirectly by modernization. Normal daily life for a 21st century Zulu is difficult to distinguish from that of other black people in South Africa.
The dominant language in South Africa is isiZulu, known commonly as Zulu. In KwaZulu-Natal, the most frequently spoken languages are Zulu and English. Zulu as a paralanguage is idiomatic and proverbial and is characterized by many clicks. The daily life of a Zulu person can be captured in the naming system of people, buildings, organizations or associations, events, etc. Every name has a meaning and may relate to the past, the present, or the future. For example, the name “Welile” means literally “a person who has crossed something” (the river). Figuratively, it means a person who has overcome obstacles.
The Zulu language is characterized by words that pertain to the details of life, making distinctions that are difficult for others to comprehend. It is also characterized by hlonipha (respect) terms. Addressing those who are older than oneself, especially elderly and senior people, by their first names is viewed as disrespectful. Therefore, terms like baba (father) and mama (mother) are used not only to address one's own parents, but also other senior men and women of the community.
The belief in ancestral spirits (amadlozi or abaphansi) has always been strong. These are the spirits of the dead. The Zulu people recognize the existence of a supreme being. God is known as uMvelinqangi (One Who Came First) or uNkulunkulu, because he appeared first. This supreme being is far removed from the lives of the people and has never been seen by anyone. No ceremonies are, therefore, ever performed for uMvelinqangi, and his influence on the lives of the people is not direct. Zulu people believe that the intermediaries between uMvelinqangi and the people on earth are the spirits of the dead. The deceased heads of families are supposed to return after death to watch over the destinies of those who remain behind. The spirits, in turn, act as mediators with uMvelinqangi. Death is believed to bring one nearer to that mysterious supernatural personage. Because the ancestral spirits are believed to watch over those left behind, those alive have to ensure that they do not offend them. The ancestral spirits are believed to be offended when people break away from accepted customs. This belief has contributed to the conservatism for which some Zulus are known.
Zulus believe in a long life that continues after death. Getting old is seen more as a blessing than an unfortunate or unwanted phenomenon. This is based on the myth that long ago people did not die but rather lived for years. According to this myth, the Creator did not think that people should die and spoke to a chameleon, saying, “Chameleon, I am sending you to the people. Go and tell them that they are not to die.” Although the chameleon was very slow, the Creator did not mind. He waited for the reply. However, after walking a long distance, the chameleon saw wild berries and decided to stop and eat them. The chameleon convinced itself that the Creator would not find out. Unfortunately, the Creator saw the chameleon and became very angry. Now the Creator called the lizard, which came swiftly. Angry, the Creator told the lizard to go and tell the people that they were to die. The lizard sped off, passed the chameleon on the way, and delivered the message to the people. After a long time, the chameleon appeared, breathing heavily, and delivered its message. The people were very angry and said to it, “Why did you waste time? We have already received the lizard's message!” Thus, growing old among the Zulu is seen as a special privilege, signifying that the Creator is overriding the lizard's message. Elderly people are believed to be sacred and are thus always respected.
Ancestral spirits are important in Zulu religious life. Offerings and sacrifices are made to the ancestors for protection, good health, and happiness. Grave sites are sacred because that is where the dead (who in turn will become ancestral spirits) are buried. Ancestral spirits come back to the world in the form of dreams, illnesses, and sometimes snakes.
The Zulu also believe in the use of magic. Anything that is beyond their understanding, such as bad luck and illness, is considered to be sent by an angry spirit, either from an ancestor or someone bewitching them. When this happens, the help of a diviner or herbalist is sought. He or she, in turn, will communicate with the ancestors or use natural herbs and prayers to get rid of the problem. Kinship members are prohibited from practicing magic or bewitching each other.
Under colonialism, many Zulu converted to Christianity. Although there are a large number of Christian converts, ancestral beliefs have far from disappeared. Instead, there has been a tendency to syncretize traditional beliefs and Christianity. This kind of religion is very common, especially among urbanites. Besides these two types of religions, there is a third type: fervent Christians who view ancestral belief as outdated and sinful.
In addition to recognizing the national holidays of the Republic of South Africa, the Zulu people celebrate Shaka's Day every year in September. This holiday is marked by celebrations and the slaughtering of cattle to commemorate the founder of the Zulu Kingdom. On this festive day, Zulu people wear their full traditional attire (clothing and weapons) and gather at Shaka's tombstone, kwaDukuza in the village of Stanger, KwaZulu-Natal province. This is a very colorful day attended by both national and international dignitaries who represent their governments. Izimbongi (praise-poets) sing the praises of all the Zulu kings, from Shaka to Zwelithini, whose reign began in 1968. Zwelithini remained traditional king of the Zulu as of 2008.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Life among the Zulu is seen as a cycle that starts at birth, continues through puberty and marriage, and finally ends in death. All these stages are celebrated and marked by the slaughtering of sacrificial animals to ancestors. The first two stages are particularly celebrated. To Zulu traditionalists, childlessness and giving birth to girls only, are the greatest of all misfortunes, and no marriage is permanent until a child, especially a boy, is born. In olden days, relatives of a childless woman used to send her sister to the woman's husband to beget a new generation. When a child is born, the older women take great care in handling the umbilical cord and the afterbirth, which are buried near the birthplace. The new mother and her child are secluded for a time, usually until the navel string of the child falls off. During this period, the mother is believed to be polluted (unclean) and weak, and thus a possible source of evil influences. After a period of a month, a ritual ceremony is performed, to “introduce” the baby to its ancestors.
The next in the cycle of rites of passage is usually umemulo (the puberty ceremony), which entails a transition to full adulthood. This ceremony, which nowadays is performed only for girls, involves separation from other people for a period to mark the changing status from youth to adulthood. This is followed by “reincorporation,” which is characterized by the ritual killing of animals, dancing, and feasting. After the ceremony, the girl is declared ready for marriage. The courting days now begin and the girl may take the first step by sending a “love letter” to a young man who appeals to her.
Zulu “love letters” are made of beads. Different colors have different meanings, and certain combinations carry particular messages. White beads are the symbol of love; black symbolizes darkness, doubt, or unhappiness; green represents weak or jealous feelings; pink signifies poverty; yellow symbolizes wealth; red signifies hurt and sorrow; and blue beads represent a happy dove that can fly over hills and rivers. Hence, a string of white and pink beads would express a young woman's love and her concern that the young man might not have the means to take care of her when they are married.
Dating for Zulu people occurs when a young man visits or writes a letter to a woman telling her how much he loves her. Sometimes the man may not be known to the woman. Once a woman decides that she loves this man, she can tell him so. It is only after they have both agreed that they love each other that they may be seen together in public. They usually hide their relationship from the parents, who should become aware of it only when the man informs them that he wants to marry their daughter.
Death and burial are not a family matter but involve the whole community. This is a time of unity and solidarity. Burial rites among the Zulu have a twofold purpose: first, to separate the deceased as painlessly as possible from the living; and second, to usher him or her into a marginal waiting period. After death, the spirit of the deceased person is believed to wander about, in the veld or near the grave, until the ukubuyisa ceremony is performed, whereby the spirit of the dead person is integrated into the world of the ancestors. The ukubuyisa ceremony is only performed for men. A special beast is set aside by the members of the household to be slaughtered. The animal should be large enough to satisfy the deceased. A small, lean one might annoy him. On the appointed day and time, all men assemble in the cattle kraal (corral) where the beast is to be slaughtered. One of the oldest male relatives of the deceased recites the izibongo (praise-poems) of the deceased and also those of his fathers and forefathers. As he recites the praises of the dead, he implores the spirit of the departed one to return and look after his children still remaining on earth. The beast is then slaughtered.
In contrast to their reputation as fierce warriors, on a personal level the Zulu are very warm and amicable people. Ubuntu (literally, humanness, good moral nature, good disposition) shapes the everyday life of the Zulu people. This comes from a notion that a human being is the highest of all the species in the world. There are hundreds of proverbs written about ubuntu, relating to the treatment of people, good and bad behavior, pride, ingratitude, bad manners, moral degeneracy, conceit, cruelty, obstinacy, pretense, helping others, etc. Very often a Zulu will be heard remarking, “Wo, akumuntu lowo. Akazi ukuthi lithatha osemsamo limbeke emnyango” (“Oh, that is no person, he/she does not know that it [lightning] takes the one at the back and throws him/her in front”). This saying is an apt warning to people who, because they find themselves in easy and comfortable circumstances, tend to ignore and ill-treat those who are less fortunate. Just as the action of lightning is unpredictable, so is the future. In other words, “He who is scorned today may hold the whip in his hand tomorrow.”
“Sawubona” is usually enough of a greeting for strangers, but a formal greeting is more appropriate for those who are familiar. The formal greeting includes a three-times handshake, while asking about the well-being of the person and his or her relations (“Ninjani?”). It is considered bad manners to greet people while they are involved in conversation. In these situations, raising the right hand is usually more appropriate. Taking leave involves the standard “Sala/Nisale kahle” (“Remain well”), with the other person responding, “Uhambe /Nihambe kahle” (“Go well”). It is customary for juniors and the young to initiate the greetings when they meet their seniors and their elders.
It is considered rude and pompous to refuse an offer, especially of food. A straight answer like, “No, thank you” is received like a slap in the face. An excuse of any sort will be more appropriate. It is also considered “inhumane” and an embarrassment to the host not to offer a visitor something to eat. Elders and seniors are always considered in the right and women are supposed to take an inferior or subservient position. Not following this traditional hierarchy would be considered “lack of respect”. However, some of the hlonipha (respect code) behavior is losing ground with modernization.
In South Africa, living conditions cannot be divorced from local politics, and conditions for the Zulu are similar to those of other black people. As of the early 21st century, they can be categorized into two groups, namely the rural and the urban Zulu. Most of the rural areas do not have adequate basic services such as electricity, clean water, formal housing, transport, hospitals, or clinics. Urban Zulu live in the so-called black townships of South Africa and the areas fringing industrial cities. Their living conditions are, at least, better than those in rural areas. Urban Zulu constitute the middle class and their lifestyle is usually no different from that of other Western urbanites. Since the education available in rural black schools is inferior, the people in these areas are not equipped to migrate and seek a better life in the urban areas, where living conditions are better. Even if they migrate, most of them end up in the poor areas fringing cities. Democratization and modernization has brought far-reaching changes and Zulu-speakers are to be found making their mark in every walk of South African life–as star athletes, politicians, academics, and business people.
In the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, a typical Zulu homestead will be circular and fenced. The houses themselves are thatched-roof rondavels. Most households comprise extended families: brothers with their wives, unmarried sisters, children, parents, and grandparents all staying together in the same homestead.
Although the Zulu are aware of their immediate family, the term “family” (umndeni) includes all the people staying in a homestead and who are related to each other, either by blood, marriage, or adoption. As a sign of respect, parents and seniors are not called by their first names; instead, kinship names are used. The Zulu believe that first names are not important because changing such names is very easy, whereas patriclan names never change. To the question, “Who are you?” the answer given is one's surname rather than the first name.
The Zulu family is patriarchal, with a man not only being the head of the family but also the figure of authority. It is not unusual for young men to have as many girlfriends as they wish. If they can afford it, they can take more than one wife when they decide to get married. In the past, for a man to pass by a woman on the street without showing interest was viewed as an insult. Women were not supposed to go out and work, since it was a man's responsibility to care for and support them. However, the status of Zulu women is slowly improving with more women receiving education.
Marriage is exogamous. Marriage to any person belonging to one's father's, mother's, father's mother's, and mother's mother's clan is prohibited. If it happens, the ukudabula (literally, cutting of the blood relationship) ritual is performed. Once a man decides that he wants to marry his girlfriend, his clan group sends an umkhongi (a go-between) with lobolo to the girl's family to open negotiations. To an outsider, lobolo can be mistakenly viewed as a business transaction, but to the Zulu it is part of the gifts that pass to and fro between the “contracting” families. Modern lobolo is usually in monetary form and, on average, totals about $4,000. To show that this is not an economic exchange of women, the bride's parents also reciprocate with endless gifts. Only children born after lobolo has been handed over will be regarded as legitimate.
The everyday clothing of a modern Zulu is no different from that of any modern urbanite. Traditional clothing, however, is very colorful. Men, women, and children wear beads as accessories. Men wear a garment, amabheshu, made of goat or cattle skin. It looks like a waist apron, worn at the back. They decorate their heads with feathers and fur. The men also wear frilly goatskin bands on their arms and legs. Women wear isidwaba, a traditional Zulu black skirt made of goat or cattle skin. If a woman is not married, she may wear only strings of beads to cover the top part of the body. If she is married, she will wear a tee-shirt. Only on special occasions, such as Shaka's Day and cultural gatherings, do Zulu wear their traditional clothes.
Since the rural Zulu economy is based on cattle and agriculture, the main staple diet consists of cow and agricultural products. This includes barbecued and boiled meat; amasi (curdled milk), mixed with dry, ground corn or dry, cooked mealie-meal (corn flour); amadumbe (yams); vegetables; and fruits. The Zulu traditional beer is not only a staple food but a considerable source of nutrition. It is made from grain which is soaked, allowed to sprout, then dried, ground, boiled, fermented, and finally strained. The result is a whitish, not altogether homogeneous, beverage. Besides the nourishment it provides, it is socially and ritually important and is drunk on all important occasions.
The everyday staple food of the Zulu today is soft porridge, made of mealie-meal, with bread and tea for breakfast; leftovers or any available light meal for lunch; and for supper, which is the main meal, any curry and uphuthu (made by boiling meal-ie-meal in salted water for about 20 minutes). The Zulu uphuthu differs from that of the Sotho-speaking people of South Africa in the sense that the latter is like a hard porridge while the former is coarse.
On average two meals are prepared each day—breakfast, after which adults and children leave the household, and supper when everyone is back from school and work. During lunch time, people eat whatever is available. If there are no leftovers, lunch may consist of bread alone. In South Africa, bread has become a basic food for most black households because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare.
Many traditional utensils are still used in the modern Zulu kitchen, but the main one is the calabash (a decorated gourd). It is used to store Zulu traditional beer. The kitchen and the preparation of food is women's domain. The preparation of beer is also a woman's duty.
The Zulu follow many food taboos. A newly widowed woman cannot prepare food until cleansing rites are performed. In the past, unmarried women were not allowed to eat eggs and chicken so that they would not embarrass their parents once they were married by stealing their in-laws' chickens and eggs. Sour milk was reserved for clan members only and not for outsiders.
Drinking and eating from the same plate was and still is a sign of friendship. It is customary for children to eat from the same dish, usually a big basin. This derives from a “share what you have” belief that is part of ubuntu (humane) philosophy.
Illiteracy is high among most black South Africans. However, by the mid-2000s education in South Africa in general, and that of Zulu children in particular, was slowly improving. In the past, children had gone to school only if their parents could afford to send them. Schooling started at 7 years of age and continued until about 24 years of age. It is, however, diffi-cult to estimate the actual number of years of schooling. Since education was not compulsory, pupils could take their time to finish matric (high school) and no teacher could tell them that they were too old to be in school. Passing matriculation was and still is regarded as a high achievement by the whole community. In daily conversation, people will talk about so-and-so having “finished schooling.” After finishing matric, those parents who can afford it usually send their children to college. Although the literacy rate for South Africa as a whole is 86.4%, the literacy rate for the largely rural Zulu people is the lowest in the country. The traditional professions for Zulus who seek higher education were teaching and nursing, but other professions are increasingly being pursued by some students. Once the children achieve these levels, the parents feel that they have done their part and thus can “retire” and wait for their children to take care of them. The University of Zululand was exclusively for Zulu people until 1994, and few Zulu students enrolled elsewhere. But students now enroll wherever their career plans, financial resources, and practical considerations allow them to go.
Raising and educating a child is one part of the family cycle among the Zulu. Parents spend all they have to raise and educate their children and, in turn, the children take care of their parents and their own children when they start working. This becomes a necessary cycle, and a person who breaks it is viewed as a community outcast and one who has forgotten about his or her roots. Consequently, education is regarded as a personal achievement and also an achievement by the whole community.
The Zulu are fond of singing as well as dancing. These cultural activities promote unity, especially when the occasion calls for a great degree of harmony within the group, e.g., in the anxious moments of happiness and sorrow, and at all the transitional ceremonies such as births, weddings, and deaths. All the dances are accompanied by thunderous drums, the men are dressed as warriors, and they dance waving their clubs and thrusting their cowhide shields forward.
The tradition and folklore of the Zulu are transmitted through storytelling, praise-poems, and proverbs. These explain Zulu history and teach moral lessons. Praise-poems (poems recited about the kings and the high achievers in life) have become part of popular culture in South Africa.
In the past, it was only able-bodied men who were supposed to work. Before the 1970s, especially in rural areas, when a young boy was capable of sending a written letter and receiving a reply, he was considered ready to go and look for work. He might seek employment in the big cities or go to work in the gold mines in Johannesburg. Being able to read and write was once a kind of rite of passage. However, that has changed with parents and children striving to pass matriculation before entering the workforce.
In the mind of the Zulu, work should benefit either one's parents or children and siblings. The first paycheck (or at least a large portion of the first paycheck) is usually given to parents in return for blessings.
Soccer, called football in South Africa, is very popular with both young boys and men. Children learn the game by watching their older brothers play. Whenever boys are together and not engaged in some household or school activity, they play soccer. Having a ball (of any kind) means a game of soccer for a group of local boys. They have their own rules and usually everyone is familiar with them. In rural areas, where living standards are poor, the stake for a game can be two to five dollars. Whoever wins gets the money. The spectators are usually friends of the players. Adult soccer is played like any other soccer (football) in the world. Young boys, especially those who live next to big rivers, also compete in swimming.
Girls, if they are not at school, are expected to assist their mothers in the house. However, they can play games once they have finished their chores. Games change with every generation, but one of the popular games played by girls, especially in rural KwaZulu is masishayana/maphakathi. Two girls stand opposite each other, usually not too far apart. Another girl stands between them, facing the one who is holding a tennis ball. The idea of this game is to try to hit the girl standing in the middle with the tennis ball, while she tries to avoid being hit. If the ball hits her or touches her clothes, she is out. Being able to avoid being hit ten times earns the girl a point. Having the most points means winning a game and becoming the best player in your circle of friends. One sport that both girls and boys participate in is athletics (track and field), which is an organized school sport.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Ritual ceremonies, including transitional ceremonies, serve as part of the entertainment and recreation for the whole community. A formal invitation to any occasion where food will be served, like weddings and birthday parties, is not part of Zulu custom. They believe that food should be shared; thus, uninvited arrival at a celebration is not frowned upon but is considered an honor by the host. During these celebrations, singing and dancing will be enjoyed.
From a young age boys engage in stick fighting and as they grow older and more proficient this activity becomes an intensely competitive and macho pastime.
Television is very popular in urban Zulu households. Those who can afford to go to the movies do so. However, since electricity in rural areas is often not available, owning a television set is a luxury for rural Zulu. For urban teenagers, American youth culture, especially clothing and music, is very popular. Among the adults, stokvels (voluntary or common-interest associations) not only function as financial assistance associations, but also as occupational, friendship, and recreational associations.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
The Zulu, especially those from rural areas, are known for their weaving, craft-making, pottery, and beadwork. Women and children weave mats for everyday use, beer sieves, and baskets for domestic purposes. They also make calabashes (decorated gourds that serve as storage vessels). Men and boys carve various household objects and ornaments from wood and bone, such as headrests, trays, scrapers, household utensils, chairs, etc. Beadmaking is mainly women's work, because beads are believed to be a unique way of sending messages without being direct.
The Zulu terms ubuntu and hlonipha summarize everything about human rights. However, if these factors are studied thoroughly, it becomes evident that some individuals in Zulu society, particularly women and children, enjoy fewer human rights than others. KwaZulu-Natal has a history of struggle between the two political parties, the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party. People have been known to be killed, not only in fights between these groupings, but also between other factions.
Alcoholism and drugs are not serious social problems, especially among rural Zulu. The level of alcoholism and drug abuse is not high. Dagga, the most common drug, was smoked traditionally like a cigarette; it can be and is still grown like any other plant. However, with Christianization and since colonialism, dagga is forbidden and illegal. The use of alcohol is very low among rural females. Culturally, a woman who drinks alcohol and smokes cigarettes is regarded as lacking morals. However, modern Zulu women in urban areas do smoke and drink alcohol.
South Africa no longer conventionally issues birth rate, health, mortality rate, and other statistics by community or race, but the HIV/AIDS rates are much higher for certain sections of the nation, such as the colored townships (townships where black South Africans live). For South Africa as a whole, the HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate was 21.5% according to a 2003 estimate. This translates to about 5.3 million people who are living with HIV/AIDS. An estimated 370,000 people died from HIV/AIDS in 2003. However, the statistics for Kwazulu-Natal, where the Zulu people predominantly live, have consistently the highest among all South Africa's provinces.
South Africa's constitution, in Act 108 of 1996, defines individual rights and protections. Equal rights for all citizens are guaranteed in Chapter 2 [9(3)], which specifically indicates that “The State may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender .... etc”. But the reality is that a significant percentage of the Zulu-speaking people still live in rural-traditional contexts. Elder/senior males are still considered to be always in the right and must be shown respect; females are regarded as inferior; women are not supposed to go out to work, as work is regarded as a man's responsibility; polygyny is still practiced; a woman can become a regent but does not succeed to become a chief or king (contrary to both the constitution and legislation); women, like children, do not generally enjoy full human rights.
However, with migration, urbanization, modernization, and democratization, change has taken place. Even in the rural areas where Zulu tradition still thrives there are minor signs of improved conditions for Zulu women.
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—revised by M. de Jongh
Identification and Location. The Zulu are an African ethnic group whose members live mainly in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, which lies between the Indian Ocean to the east and the Drakensberg mountain range to the west. The province stretches from the borders of Mozambique and Swaziland in the north to the Umzimkhulu River in the south. This is an agriculturally fertile region, with the summer being a very productive season. The summer season between October and April is warm and rainy, while the winter between June and August is relatively cold and dry. Temperatures are moderate. The Zulu are bordered by the Swazi people to the north, the BaSotho to the west, and the Xhosa and Mpondo communities to the south.
Zulu identity has changed over time. Before the ascendancy of King Shaka, the term Zulu referred to only one clan that recognized "Zulu" as its founding ancestor. After Shaka's mission of conquest and consolidation, the term came to refer to hundreds of clans under the control of the Zulu monarchy. After the beginning of British colonial rule of Natal in 1843, Zulu identity became associated with a particular territory, especially the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal Province, formerly known as Zululand. Today Zulu "ethnic" identity is linked to the language and the monarchy.
Demography. It is difficult to determine the number of Zulu people as not all people who speak the isiZulu language can be assumed to be Zulu. KwaZulu-Natal Province is also open to all South Africans, and not all the people who live there are Zulu. According to the South African Statistics 2000 report, in 1996, 9, 200, 144 people out of the total national population of 40, 583, 573 spoke the isiZulu language. In 1997 there were an estimated 8, 713, 100 "Black" people living in KwaZulu-Natal (out of 31, 460, 970 "Black" people in all of South Africa). It is estimated that among all isiZulu speakers in South Africa, 74. 6 percent live in KwaZulu-Natal.
Linguistic Affiliation. Zulu people speak the isiZulu language, which is classified as one of the Nguni languages in South Africa, which include the isiXhosa, isiSwazi, and isiNdebele languages. In southern Africa the Nguni coexist with the Sotho and the Khoisan, who also have their own subdivisions. All these southern African cultural-linguistic groups with the exception of the Khoisan are often classified as Bantu-speaking peoples because their languages have some linguistic similarities of a broad nature compared to other African languages. There is some speculation that this might be the case because of common origins, but this hypothesis is debatable.
History and Cultural Relations
Oral history lists eight kings, including the currently reigning king, Zwelithini Goodwill. Shaka Zulu is often considered the first and most prominent of these kings, particularly with regard to military proficiency and command and the integration and mobilization of smaller "tribes" into a kingdom. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the Zulu, like some other tribes with equivalent military capabilities, attempted to subjugate other groups and establish political supremacy.
While this process was going on, the colonial powers arrived on the scene. The British officially annexed Natal in 1845, while the Dutch-German-French descendants locally referred to as the Boers had already begun to colonize the same territory. However, Natal's status as a Boer colony was shaky and short-lived. The Boers later annexed the western part of Zululand in an attempt to form a Boer republic. Brutality and mistrust characterized the relationship between the colonists and the indigenous Zulu population, with the colonists always having the upper hand. Amid political strife in the 1880s, the Zulu kingdom was weakened by the arrest of the king and by internal conflict. Under what was called the Shepstonian system, the British colonists later divided Zulu-land into thirteen chiefdoms.
There is a great deal of doubt and uncertainty regarding Zulu history because of its use as a political tool to support apartheid or argue against it and, in the early 1990s, to argue for or against the Inkatha Freedom Party's struggle for Zulu sovereignty. Despite these issues the Zulu have maintained a strong sense of themselves as Zulu by associating their surnames with being Zulu, maintaining a large vocabulary of praise names, and maintaining specific Zulu cultural practices.
KwaZulu-Natal is both urban and rural, with Durban as its largest city. The Zulu people in rural areas live in households that contain nuclear family members or in a three-generation household structure. The physical structures are often rondavels, circular houses built of mud or concrete blocks and thatched with grass or iron sheets. Rectangular flat-roofed houses made of mud or concrete blocks are as popular as rondavels, but the two forms often coexist, as rondavels are preferred for use as a kitchen or as a house where ancestors are consulted. A common housing structure before the second half of the twentieth century was the beehive hut. These huts were round, strongly woven grass structures with small doors that could be entered only on one's knees. Kitchens often have a hearth that serves as the center of the house.
Urban Zulu people live mainly in townships that were built in the 1950s and 1960s by the government to enforce racial segregation. Townships were residential areas of "Black" people and their families that were close to their places of work in the cities. The government of that time built numerous four-roomed houses that were rented out to people. In KwaZulu-Natal those houses were occupied mainly by Zulu people. With a few exceptions the Zulu are still the main inhabitants of KwaZulu-Natal townships, but the houses are now privately owned.
Since the abolition of apartheid in the early 1990s, some urban areas have become more integrated. In the inner city of Durban the Zulu coexist with people from other parts of South Africa and people from other African countries who have come to KwaZulu-Natal for reasons such as studying, seeking asylum, and seeking employment.
Subsistence. Before the mid-nineteenth century the Zulu depended entirely on horticulture and raising livestock. Their staple crop was maize, while cattle, goats, and poultry were the most important livestock. Today they eat spinach, pumpkins, beans, potatoes, and other vegetables, which they grow and buy. Although they like meat, many people cannot afford to buy it. Maize, wheat flour, and more recently rice are the main staples.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. Zulu beadwork is now mainly made for tourists and specific ceremonies. In a few places traditional Zulu dress is still worn.
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.
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 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 alternative amakhosi (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.
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. 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.
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.
Kinship Terminology. Kinship terminology for the nuclear family includes the following terms: umama for mother, ubaba for father, udadewethu sister, umfowethu brother, undodakazi for daughter, and undodana son. This is the terminology sometimes used by people in recognition of their respective ages as they interact. In-laws use the same terms modified to indicate the affinal nature of the relationship. Thus, for a young woman who has married into another household, her husband's mother is called her mamezala even though in her usual address she will call her mama. Her husband's father is ubabezala even though when addressing him she will call him baba. Other terms of respect to refer to a sister/sister-in-law and a brother/brother-in-law are sisi and bhuti, respectively. These terms may have originated from other languages, but they are popularly used as a sign of respect for people one does not want to mention categorically by name. Cousins call each other mzala or gazi, with the latter term being used mostly among parallel cousins related through their mothers. One's father's brother is called bab'omkhulu or bab'omncane, depending on whether he is older or younger than one's father. One's father's sister is called babekazi although the English derived anti gained in popularity at the beginning of the twentieth century. On the mother's side, one's mother's sisters are called mam'khulu or mam'ncane according to whether they are older or younger. The mother's brother is called malume. 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.
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. 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.
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.
Inheritance. Inheritance of property is along the patrilineal line. Inheritance of important positions such as a "chiefship" follows the pattern of primogeniture.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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).
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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).
Ceremonies. There are numerous ceremonies that relate to an individual's stage in the domestic cycle and also are linked to ancestors. Babies are named and then introduced to the ancestors in a ceremony called imbeleko. A girl's first menstruation is celebrated through a ceremony called umhlonyane. Both of these ceremonies involve slaughtering a goat. Young women are declared adults and ready for marriage through a ceremony called umemulo, which involves slaughtering a cow. Marriage is celebrated through a wedding ceremony (umshado or umgcagco). Death is a ceremonial occasion accompanied by appropriate rites of passage. Another important ceremony is conducted a year after a household member has died and is supposed to link the deceased with his or her long-departed relatives and elevate him or her to "ancestorhood." Moderation in the practice or observance of these ceremonies characterizes life in KwaZulu-Natal. When there is an omission in performing such ceremonies, diviners often point to this as the cause of ill luck for an individual or household.
Royal ceremonies include the reed dance ceremony (umkhosi womhlanga), in which young women show pride in their womanhood (with an emphasis on virginity) by parading at the king's palace in view of thousands of cheerful onlookers. The king maintains the traditional privilege of choosing a wife from among those women. The Shaka Zulu celebrations are held on 24 September every year. While this day was historically called Shaka's day and is important for the Zulu people, in the new South African democratic era it is now called Heritage Day and is supposed to have meaning for all South Africans. The Zulu still commemorate Shaka Zulu on this day. The king also has other responsibilities, such as a twenty-minute address to the Zulu nation on Ukhozi (an isiZulu radio station) on Christmas morning.
Arts. The Zulu are known for pottery. The art of making and decorating pots remains an important skill for Zulu women. Beadwork 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.
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.
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.
For the original article on Zulu, see Volume 9, Africa and the Middle East.
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MPILO PEARL SITHOLE
LOCATION: KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa
POPULATION: 9.2 million
LANGUAGE: IsiZulu; Zulu; English
RELIGION: Mixture of traditional beliefs and Christianity
1 • INTRODUCTION
For many people, the Zulu are the best-known African people. Their military exploits led to the rise of a great kingdom that was feared for a long time over much of the African continent. The Zulu are the descendants of Nguni-speaking people. Their written history can be traced back to the fourteenth century.
In the early nineteenth century a young Zulu prince, Shaka, came onto the scene and welded most of the Nguni tribes into the powerful Zulu Kingdom. Shaka ruled from 1816 to 1828, when he was assassinated by his brothers. During his reign, Shaka recruited young men from all over the kingdom and trained them in his own novel warrior tactics. After defeating competing armies and assimilating their people, Shaka established his Zulu nation. Within twelve years, he had forged one of the mightiest empires the African continent has ever known.
However, during the late 1800s, British troops invaded Zulu territory and divided the Zulu land into thirteen chiefdoms. The Zulu never regained their independence. Throughout the mid-1900s they were dominated by different white governments, first the British and later on, the Afrikaner. The Zulu have endeavored to regain a measure of political autonomy, both before South Africa's first democratic election in 1994 and in the subsequent period to the present. They have been unsuccessful, however, with both governments.
2 • LOCATION
The 9 million Zulu-speaking people live mainly in KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. Some are also scattered throughout the other provinces. KwaZulu-Natal borders on Mozambique in the north, Eastern Cape in the south, the Indian Ocean in the east, and Lesotho in the west. The capital city is Pietermaritzburg. KwaZulu-Natal is semi-fertile with a flat coastal plain, highlands to the west, and numerous rivers and streams. The subtropical climate brings lots of sunshine and brief, intense rain showers.
While many Zulu still live in traditionally structured rural communities, others have migrated to urban areas. However, links between urban and rural residents remain strong. A mixture of traditional and Western ways of life is clearly evident in the lives of almost all Zulu people.
3 • LANGUAGE
The dominant language in South Africa is isiZulu. In KwaZulu-Natal, the most frequently spoken languages are Zulu and English. Zulu is idiomatic and proverbial and is characterized by many clicks. The Zulu language is characterized by hlonipha (respect) terms. Addressing those who are older than oneself, especially elderly and senior people, by their first names is viewed as lack of respect. Therefore terms like baba (father) and mama (mother) are used not only to address one's parents but also other senior males and females of the community.
4 • FOLKLORE
Among the Zulu, the belief in ancestral spirits (amadlozi or abaphansi ) has always been strong. These are the spirits of the dead. The Zulus recognize the existence of a supreme being. UMvelinqangi (One Who Came First) or uNkulunkulu (Very Big One) is God because he appeared first. This supreme being is far removed from the lives of the people and has never been seen by anyone. No ceremonies are, therefore, ever performed for uMvelinqangi. Zulu people believe that the spirits of the dead mediate between uMvelinqangi and the people on earth.
Zulus believe in a long life that continues after death. Getting old is seen as a blessing. This is based on the myth that long ago people did not die but rather lived for years. The Creator did not think that people should die. He, therefore, called a chameleon and said, "Chameleon, I am sending you to the people. Go and tell them that they are not to die." Although the chameleon was very slow, the Creator did not mind. He waited for the reply. However, after walking a long distance, the chameleon saw wild berries and decided to stop and eat them. It told itself that the Creator would not see it. Unfortunately, the Creator saw it and became very angry. He called a lizard, which came swiftly. The Creator told the lizard to go and tell the people that they are to die. The lizard sped off, passed the chameleon on the way, and delivered the message to the people. After a long time, the chameleon appeared, breathing heavily, and delivered its message. The people were very angry and said to it, "Why did you waste time? We have already received the lizard's message!" Thus, growing old among the Zulu is seen as a special privilege from the Creator. Elderly people are believed to be sacred, and are thus are always respected.
5 • RELIGION
Ancestral spirits are important in Zulu religious life. Offerings and sacrifices are made to the ancestors for protection, good health, and happiness. Ancestral spirits come back to the world in the form of dreams, illnesses, and sometimes snakes. The Zulu also believe in the use of magic. Anything beyond their understanding, such as bad luck and illness, is considered to be sent by an angry spirit. When this happens, the help of a diviner (soothsayer) or herbalist is sought. He or she will communicate with the ancestors or use natural herbs and prayers to get rid of the problem.
Many Zulu converted to Christianity under colonialism. Although there are many Christian converts, ancestral beliefs have far from disappeared. Instead, there has been a mixture of traditional beliefs and Christianity. This kind of religion is particularly common among urbanites. There are also fervent Christians who view ancestral belief as outdated and sinful.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
The Zulu recognize the national holidays of the Republic of South Africa. In addition, they celebrate Shaka's Day every year in September. This holiday is marked by celebrations and slaughtering cattle to commemorate the founder of the Zulu Kingdom. On this important day, Zulu people wear their full traditional attire (clothing and weapons) and gather at Shaka's tombstone, kwaDukuza in Stanger. This is a very colorful day attended by both national and international dignitaries who represent their governments. Izimbongi (praise-poets) sing the praises of all the Zulu kings, from Shaka to the present king, Zwelithini.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Among the Zulu, birth, puberty, marriage, and death are all celebrated and marked by the slaughter of sacrificial animals to ancestors. Birth and puberty are particularly celebrated. To Zulu traditionalists, childlessness and giving birth to girls only are the greatest of all misfortunes. No marriage is permanent until a child, especially a boy, is born.
The puberty ceremony (umemulo) is a transition to full adulthood. Nowadays it is performed only for girls. It involves separation from other people for a period to mark the changing status from youth to adulthood. This is followed by "reincorporation," characterized by ritual killing of animals, dancing, and feasting. After the ceremony, the girl is declared ready for marriage. The courting days then begin. The girl may take the first step by sending a "love letter" to a young man who appeals to her. Zulu love letters are made of beads. Different colors have different meanings, and certain combinations carry particular messages.
Dating occurs when a young man visits or writes a letter to a woman telling her how much he loves her. Once a woman decides that she loves this man, she can tell him so. It is only after they have both agreed that they love each other that they may be seen together in public. Parents should become aware of the relationship only when the man informs them that he wants to marry their daughter.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
In contrast to their known warriorism, the Zulu are very warm and amicable people at a personal level. Ubuntu (literally, "humanness," "good moral nature," "good disposition") shapes the everyday life of the Zulu people. This comes from a notion that a human being is the highest of all species. There are hundreds of proverbs written about ubuntu. These proverbs relate to the treatment of people, good and bad behavior, pride, ingratitude, bad manners, moral degeneracy, conceit, cruelty, obstinacy, pretense, helping others, and so forth.
Sawubona is usually enough of a greeting for strangers, but a formal greeting is more appropriate for those who are familiar. The formal greeting includes a three-times handshake, while asking about the well-being of the person and his or her relations (Ninjani?). Taking leave involves the standard Sala/Nisale kahle (Remain well), and the other person responds by saying, Uhambe/Nihambe kahle (Go well). It is customary for juniors and the young to initiate the greetings when they meet their seniors and their elders.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
In South Africa, living conditions cannot be divorced from local politics. Conditions for the Zulu are similar to those of other black people. Zulu in most of the rural areas do not have adequate basic services such as electricity, clean water, formal housing, transport, hospitals, or clinics. Urban Zulu live in the so-called black townships and the areas fringing industrial cities. Their living conditions are, at least, better than those in rural areas. They constitute the Zulu middle class; their lifestyle is usually no different from that of other Western urbanites. Since the education available in rural black schools is inferior, the people in these areas are not equipped to migrate and seek a better life in the urban areas. If they migrate, most end up in the poor areas fringing cities.
In the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, a typical Zulu homestead will be circular and fenced, with a thatched-roof house.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
The Zulu term for "family" (umndeni) includes all the people staying in a homestead who are related to each other, either by blood, marriage, or adoption. Most rural households comprise extended families, brothers with their wives, unmarried sisters, children, parents, and grandparents all staying together in the same homestead. As a sign of respect, parents and elders are not called by their first names; instead, kinship names (surnames) are used.
The Zulu family is patriarchal; a man is both the head of the family and the figure of authority. It is not unusual for young men to have as many girlfriends as they wish. If they can afford it, they can take more than one wife when they decide to get married. Traditionally, women were not supposed to go out and work, since they were a man's responsibility. Nowadays the status of Zulu women is slowly improving with more women receiving an education.
Marriage is exogamous; marriage to any person belonging to one's father's, mother's, father's mother's, and mother's mother's clan is prohibited. If it happens, the ukudabula (literally, "cutting of the blood relationship") ritual is performed.
11 • CLOTHING
Today, the everyday clothing of a Zulu is no different from that of any modern urbanite. Traditional clothing, however, is very colorful. Men, women, and children wear beads as accessories. Men wear amabheshu, made of goat or cattle skin, which looks like a waist apron, worn at the back. They decorate their heads with feathers and fur. Men also wear frilly goatskin bands on their arms and legs. Women wear isidwaba, a traditional Zulu black skirt made of goat or cattle skin. If a woman is not married, she may wear only strings of beads to cover the top part of the body. If she is married, she will wear a T-shirt. Zulu only wear their traditional clothes on special occasions, such as Shaka's Day and cultural gatherings.
12 • FOOD
The rural Zulu economy is based on cattle and agriculture. Consequently, the main staple diet consists of cow and agricultural products. This includes barbecued and boiled meat; amasi (curdled milk), mixed with dry, ground corn or dry, cooked mealie-meal (corn flour); amadumbe (yams); vegetables; and fruits. The Zulu traditional beer is not only a staple food but a considerable source of nutrition. It is also socially and ritually important and is drunk on all significant occasions.
Drinking and eating from the same plate was and still is a sign of friendship. It is customary for children to eat from the same dish, usually a big basin. This derives from a "share what you have" belief which is part of ubuntu (humane) philosophy.
13 • EDUCATION
Illiteracy (inability to read and write) is high among most black South Africans. However, education is slowly improving with the new government. Before, children went to school only if their parents could afford to send them. Schooling started at seven years of age and continued until about twenty-four years of age. Since education was not compulsory, pupils could take their time to finish matric (high school). Passing matriculation (graduating) was and still is regarded as a high achievement by the whole community. After matriculation, those parents who can afford it usually send their children to college.
Education and raising a child is like a cycle among the Zulu. Parents spend all they have to raise and educate their children. In turn, the children take care of their parents and their own children when they start working. A person who breaks this cycle is viewed as a community outcast, one who has forgotten about his or her roots.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
The Zulu are fond of singing as well as dancing. These activities promote unity at all the transitional ceremonies such as births, weddings, and funerals. All the dances are accompanied by drums. The men dress as warriors, wave their clubs, and thrust their cowhide shields forward.
Zulu folklore is transmitted through storytelling, praise-poems, and proverbs. These explain Zulu history and teach moral lessons. Praise-poems (poems recited about the kings and the high achievers in life) are becoming part of popular culture.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
In the past, only able-bodied men were supposed to work. Before the 1970s, especially in rural areas, being able to send a written letter and get a reply meant that a young boy was ready to go and look for work. Now Zulus want to complete their high school education. In the mind of the Zulu, work should benefit either one's parents or children and siblings. The first salary (or the bigger portion), therefore, is usually given to parents in return for blessings.
16 • SPORTS
Soccer is very popular for both young boys and men. Children learn the game by watching their older brothers play. Whenever boys are together and not engaged in some household or school activity, they play soccer. Young boys, especially those who live next to big rivers, also compete in swimming. Girls, if they are not at school, are expected to assist their mothers in the house. However, they can play games once they have finished their chores. One popular game played by girls, especially in rural KwaZulu, is masishayana/maphakathi. Two girls stand opposite each other, usually not more than 165 feet (50 meters) apart. Another girl stands between them, facing the one who is holding a tennis ball. The idea of this game is to try to hit the girl standing in the middle while she tries to avoid being hit. If the ball hits her or touches her clothes, she is out. Being able to avoid being hit ten times earns the girl a point. Having the most points means winning a game and becoming the best player in your circle of friends. One sport which is participated in by both girls and boys is track and field, an organized school sport.
17 • RECREATION
Ritual ceremonies also serve as part of the entertainment and recreation for the whole community. Zulu custom does not mandate formal invitations to gatherings where food will be served, such as weddings and birthday parties. The Zulu believe that food should be shared. Therefore, uninvited arrival at a celebration is an honor to the host. These celebrations include singing and dancing.
Television is very popular among urban Zulu households. Owning a television set is a luxury for rural Zulu since very few rural areas have electricity. Those who can afford to go to the movies do so. For urban teenagers, American youth culture, especially clothing and music, is very popular. Among adults, stokvels (voluntary or common-interest associations) provide financial assistance, friendship, and recreation.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
The Zulu, especially those from rural areas, are known for their weaving, craftmaking, pottery, and beadwork. Women and children weave everyday-use mats, beer sieves, and baskets for domestic purposes. They also make calabashes (decorated gourds used as utensils). Men and boys carve various household objects and ornaments from wood and bone. These include headrests, trays, scrapers, household utensils, and chairs. Beadmaking is mainly women's work because beads are believed to be a way of sending messages without being direct.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
The Zulu terms ubuntu and hlonipha summarize everything about human rights. However, it is evident that some individuals in Zulu society, particularly women and children, enjoy fewer human rights than others.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Haskins, J., et al. From Afar to Zulu. New York: Walker and Company, 1995.
Khuzwayo, W. "Kinship Substitutions." Paper presented at the PAAA Conference in Cameroon, West Africa, 1994.
Macnamara, M. World Views. Pretoria: J. L. van Schaik Pty, 1980.
West, M. Abantu. Cape Town: C. Struik Publishers, 1976.
D. W. Web Design. Zulu Anthropology. [Online] Available http://www.africasafari.co.za/traditional.htm, 1998.
Embassy of South Africa, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.southafrica.net/, 1998.
Government of South Africa. [Online] http://www.polity.org.za/gnu.html, 1998.
Interknowledge Corp. South Africa. [Online] Available http://www.geographia.com/south-africa/, 1998.
Southern African Development Community. South Africa. [Online] Available http://www.sadcusa.net/members/safrica/, 1998.
ETHNONYMS: Kaffir, KwaZulu
The Zulu are located primarily in Zululand (28° S, 32° E), which is part of the province of Natal of the Republic of South Africa. The Zulu language is classified as a dialect of Nguni, a Zone S language of the South Eastern Area of Bantu proper. Before the days of Shaka, the early nineteenth-century king who consolidated the North Nguni tribes, the term abakwaZulu referred to members of the Zulu "clan," descendants of a man named Zulu. With Shaka s political conquests, the term "Zulu" came to include some hundreds of Nguni "clans," all of whom paid allegiance to the Zulu king. Many South African peoples, including the Zulu, are also called "Kaffirs," meaning "infidels," a name which was bestowed on them by early Arab traders.
Gluckman (1972) quotes a population estimate of 100,000 for the early nineteenth century, but he feels that this estimate is too low. According to the 1967 census, the Zulu population was 3,340,000. Berglund (1976) gives the population as 4,130,000. The population in 1986 was estimated at 5,960,000, distributed thus: 5,700,00 in South Africa, 37,500 in Malawi, 15,000 in Swaziland, and 228,000 in Lesotho.
History and Cultural Relations
The Zulu have a reputation as "a proud, fierce, recklessly brave though barbaric warrior race" (Ngubane 1977, viii). In 1815 Shaka, a descendant of the Zulu "clan" originator, came to power. Shaka, who is often referred to as the "Black Napoleon," organized a standing army and proceeded to conquer many of the surrounding Nguni "clans." The results of this turbulent period were widespread; tribes such as the Matabele, Shangana, and Ngoni were formed by people fleeing in Shaka's wake. During Shaka's reign, the first European trading company was established in Port Natal (later Durban). Up to that point, there had been only sporadic contact with Whites. In 1828 Shaka was assassinated by his brother Dingane. In 1835 the missionary Gardner established himself among the Zulu. Piet Retief and a number of Boer Trekkers were massacred by Dingane in 1838. After Dingane's defeat at the Battle of Blood River, his brother Mpande made an alliance with the Boers and forced Dingane into exile. In 1843 Natal became a Crown colony. Mpande was succeeded in 1872 by his son Cetshwayo, during whose reign the Zulu war of 1879-1880 took place. Britain established a magistracy in 1887, and in 1910 Natal became a part of the Union of South Africa. The end of the era of effective Zulu monarchs came with the death of Cetshwayo's son, Dinzulu, in 1913. As with the other indigenous South Africans, the Zulu were outcastes in White-controlled South Africa. Establishment of indigenous control in the 1990s brought conflict with the Xhosa and then accommodation. Zulu social, political, and economic interests have been represented since 1975 by the Zulu National Cultural Liberation Movement (Inkatha Ye Sizwe), commonly known as Inkatha or the Inkatha party.
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. Sacrifice of cattle was the principal means of propitiating the ancestors.
The modern Zulu are poor, with agricultural yield below subsistence level. Women still till the fields, but most men travel to the towns seeking work. Cattle are still a symbol of wealth, although the holdings are low. Cattle are seldom slaughtered for meat—usually only for ritual occasions. According to Clarke and Ngobese (1975), poverty and malnutrition were so severe that the traditional robust Zulu physique is changing and the Zulu are "becoming a puny, stunted and mentally enfeebled people."
Kinship and Sociopolitical Organization
Traditional Zulu political organization was hierarchical, with the king at the apex. Authority was delegated to chiefs of districts and from them to homestead heads. The lowest level of political and kinship organization was the umuzi, variously translated as "village," "kraal," or "homestead." These settlements were patrilocal extended-family or clan barrios. Polygyny was the norm and was often sororal. Each kraal was the homestead of a male, which included a separate hut for each of his wives. The huts were arranged, according to the status of the wives, around the central cattle kraal. Villages were moved every few years. The kraal head had the responsibility of keeping law and order and settling disputes. Disputes that could not be settled in the kraal or cases of a special nature were dealt with by the district head.
Zulu society was organized into patrilineal sibs. Through a process of growth, subdivision, and incorporation of aliens, the sib developed into a "tribe," which, however, was still known by the name of the ancestor of the dominant sib. The sibs were divided into lineages, which were composed of descendants of a common ancestor in the near past.
The king, the head of the Zulu "tribe" or "clan," had judicial and legislative power. The legislation, formed by consultation with old men or the council, was not of enormous significance, consisting of orders for the regiments to marry or announcements about campaigns. The council of the king consisted of headmen or the heads of important families who were required to live at the royal kraal for certain periods to advise the king.
Shaka made a number of military innovations, not the least of which was a reorganization of the regimental system. An intanga consisted of a group of men of roughly the same age who lived at the royal kraal, tended to the king's cattle, and formed the standing army. According to Reader (1966), the regimental system, although not organized for war, is still an active institution in Zulu society.
Despite some belief in spirits, there was no real worship of them. Religion was primarily concerned with ancestor worship. Divination was the means of discovering the wishes of the ancestors, and sacrifice of cattle was the means of propitiation. Sorcery and witchcraft were quite common. Missionaries have been in Zululand since 1835, and apparently have been quite successful: more than half the population is reckoned as Christian. According to Ngubane (1977) and others, Christianity does not conflict with ancestor worship or belief in witchcraft.
Berglund, Axel-lvar (1976). Zulu Thought-Patterns and Symbolism. Uppsala: Swedish Institute of Missionary Research.
Bryant, A. T. (1970). Zulu Medicine and Medicine-Men. Cape Town: C. Struik.
Clarke, Liz, and Jane Ngobese ( 1975). Women without Men: A Study of 150 Families in the Ngutu District of Kwazulu. Durban: Institute for Black Research.
Gluckman, Max (1972). "Moral Crisis: Magical and Secular Solutions." In The Allocation of Responsibility, edited by Max Gluckman. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Klopper, Sandra (1989). Mobilizing Cultural Symbols in Twentieth Century Zululand. Cape Town: Centre for African Studies.
Krige, E. J. (1968). "Girl's Puberty Songs and Their Relation to Fertility, Health, Morality, and Religion among the Zulu." Africa 38:173-198.
Ngubane, Harriet (1977). Body and Mind in Zulu Medicine. London: Academic Press.
Raum, O. F. (1967). "The Interpretation of the Nguni First Fruit Ceremony." Paideuma 13:148-163.
Reader, D. H. (1966). Zulu Tribe in Transition: The Makhanya of Southern Natal. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Vilakazi, A. (1962). Zulu Transformation. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.
Zulu ★★½ 1964
In 1879, a small group of British soldiers try to defend their African outpost from attack by thousands of Zulu warriors. Amazingly, the British win. Dated colonial epic based on an actual incident; battle scenes are magnificent. Prequel “Zulu Dawn” (1979) depicts British mishandling of the situation that led to the battle. 139m/C VHS, DVD . Michael Caine, Jack Hawkins, Stanley Baker, Nigel Green, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, Paul Daneman, Neil McCarthy, Gary Bond, Patrick Magee, Dickie Owen, Larry Taylor, Dennis Folbigge, Ivor Emmanuel, Glynn Edwards, David Kernan; D: Cy Endfield; W: Cy Endfield, John Prebble; C: Stephen Dade; M: John Barry; Nar: Richard Burton.
Zu·lu / ˈzoōloō/ • n. 1. a member of a South African people living mainly in KwaZulu-Natal province. ∎ the Nguni language of this people. 2. a code word representing the letter Z, used in radio communication. • adj. of or relating to the Zulu people or language.