The Zulu

© Dr Peter Magubane
Zulu men at King Shaka Day celebrations with the KwaZulu-Natal mountains in the background.

The origin of the Zulu, probably the largest single population group in South Africa, lies in a small Nguni-speaking chiefdom that emerged near the White Umfolozi River in what is today known as KwaZulu-Natal during the 16th century. Shaka, who became the chief of the tiny Zulu group in 1818, laid the foundations of the Zulu nation and built the mightiest empire in southern Africa.

Cultural Zulu Practices

Music, song and dancing have traditionally played an important part in Zulu life, not only of the individual, but also of the community as a whole....more

Daily Life of the Zulu

Thus Zulu children were exposed to nature at an early age, inculcating a deep, lasting understanding and empathy for the environment in which they lived....more

Military Organisation of the Zulu

During the reign of Shaka and his successors, the growth and strength of the Zulu nation lay in its military organization and skills....more

Political Organistation of the Zulu

At the base of the structure were the individual households (imizi), which comprised the smallest political units in the government of the nation....more

Religion and Beliefs of the Zulu People

The Zulu believe that the isithunzi becomes the ancestral spirit after death, but only after the ukubuyisa ceremony has been performed, during which the spirit is 'brought back home'....more

The Origins of the Zulu

Around the year 1550 Malandela, a chief with a small following, settled at the foot of Amandawe Hill on the southern banks of the Umhlatuze River just before it enters the Nkwaleni Valley....more

The Rise of the Zulu Empire

In 1787, Senzangakhona, the young chief of the Zulu (which derived its name from one of Malandela's quarrelsome sons), fathered a son out of wedlock, Shaka....more

Traditional Medicine and Magic in Zulu Society

Traditional medicines in Zulu society have their origins in the mists of antiquity; and their use and application today have changed little over the ages....more

Traditional Zulu Childbirth

Childbirth among the Zulu has always been the concern of women alone, and no men are allowed to be present at birth....more

Zulu Puberty Ceremonies

Distinction between members of the umuzi was reinforced by the fact that every individual passed through a number of well-marked stages, none of which could be entered into without preparation and ceremony....more

Zulu Traditional Homesteads

The architecture and layout of the umuzi were the same throughout Zulu society and reflected the status of the different wives....more