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The Zulu Cultural Experience

Zulu history

Zulu dancers Rural Zulu village scene, near Hluhluwe-Imfolozi

The Zulu nation, legendary for their fearlessness and discipline in battle, were transformed from a clan into a mighty nation under the rule of the famous warrior-king Shaka, and struck fear into the hearts of rival tribes, settlers and British armies in Natal. Many still marvel at how the British were defeated at the Battle of Isandlawana by a people armed only with spears and shields.

Known as Nguni after their leader, the ancestors of the Zulu came from central east Africa and settled in what became Zululand in Natal in the late 16th century. By 1785 the clan's descendents were calling themselves the abakwaZulu ("people of heaven") and later, ruled by Shaka, they would defeat and absorb other chiefdoms - resulting in the Zulu nation becoming renowned as one of the most formidable military forces in Africa.

Now, although very much a part of mainstream modern South Africa, the Zulu still strongly identify with their past, and their warrior ethic and rich history are clearly reflected in traditional Zulu ceremonies.

Zulu culture and lifestyle

Zulu drummer

Zulu society is patriarchal, with clearly defined rules dictating the duties of members as well as governing the manners and behaviour of subordinates towards superiors - such as women towards men and younger towards elder.

Zulu men and women are skilful crafters and use their skills to create items for daily use such as mats, baskets and storage vessels. Pottery is also an important element of Zulu tradition.

Singing and dancing are an integral part of Zulu lifestyle and their rich singing voices and sense of rhythm provide an experience not to be missed. Dancing is very energetic and traditionally only performed by unmarried women and men. While the women tend to be more modest, the men traditionally incorporate battle and hunting movements into their dancing.

A traditional Zulu homestead is a circular cluster of thatched beehive huts that are home to a married man and his family. The huts are normally constructed from long grass, wood, reeds, cattle dung and the soil from termite mounds.

Experiencing it

Traditional Zulu man

For a glimpse into this rich culture and history, you can visit DumaZulu Traditional Village which neighbours Malala Lodge and is a 5 minute drive away. The DumaZulu residents form part of a "living museum" and carry out age-old traditions including spear, shield and clay pot making. The experience culminates in a display of traditional Zulu dancing.

Zamimpilo Community Market is 10 minutes drive from Malala and provides visitors with the opportunity to view and buy a wide array of Zulu crafts and curios.

Ilala Weavers comprises the Ilala gallery and Zulu Cultural Museum, and is 20 minutes away.

Khula Village, near St Lucia, will give you an overview of current Zulu life with visits to schools, churches, Zulu dancing and even a traditional Sangoma. Your guide is a resident of this village and will be able to answer your questions about past and current Zulu culture and affairs.