The Importance of Elders and Ancestors
In Lesotho, the bale initiation ceremony instructs women in acceptable social behaviour. The number of girls participating in ceremonies like these has declined significantly in recent years. This may be due in part to the fact that initiates are subjected to challenging endurance tests as part of their training.
In contemporary KwaZulu-Natal, married Zulu women commonly wear elaborately beaded capes as a sign of respect to both the ancestors and their husbands' families. These capes vary significantly in style from one region to another.
In some rural areas, married Zulu women still wear capes in combination with pleated leather skirts made from the hides of ritually slaughtered animals. In many cases, embroidered cloths or beaded aprons are worn over these thick, heavy skirts.
Although many women no longer wear traditional head-dresses, they still tend to show respect for their husbands and parents-in-law by covering their heads with scarves. On special occasions, these scarves are often shaped into elaborate styles.
By Professor Sandra Klopper