The Zulu people of KwaZulu-Natal were once a disparate group of clans and chieftanships. But when King Shaka melded them into one of the greatest fighting forces in history they entered the realm of myth and legend. Today Zulu culture is one of the most admired aspects of our Rainbow Nation.
The Zulu people call themselves as ‘the people of the heavens’. Once a disparate group of clans and chieftainships, they were melded into a great kingdom by Shaka in the early 19th century.
Because of the exploits of Shaka and his successors, the Zulu people are arguably the most recognisable in Africa. Today they number over nine million, with the majority living in KwaZulu-Natal. Their language, IsiZulu, is the most widely spoken in South Africa.
Zulu people hold their culture in high esteem, observing many of its ancient traditions, rituals and ceremonies. They believe strongly in the presence of ancestral spirits, which are essential in their day-to-day lives. Birth, marriage and death are opportune times to communicate with the ancestors in Zulu culture.
In Zulu culture, clothing is often intricate, carrying meaning with each outfit. Men, women and children wear beads as accessories. Men wear the amabeshu – an apron made of goat or cattle skin, but worn at the back. In addition, men decorate their heads with furs and feathers, while also wearing goatskin bands on their arms and legs.