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Zulu People Traditions & Culture

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Zulu People Traditions & Culture

The Zulu are the largest ethnic group in South Africa. They are well known for their beautiful brightly colored beads and baskets as well as other small carvings.

The Zulu believe that they are descendants from a chief from the Congo area, and in the 16th century migrated south picking up many of the traditions and customs of the San who also inhabited this South African area.Zulu people During the 17th and 18th centuries many of the most powerful chiefs made treaties and gave control of the Zulu villages to the British. This caused much conflict because the Zulu had strong patriarchal village government systems so they fought against the British but couldn'tZulu basket win because of the small strength they possessed. Finally, after much of the Zulu area had been given to the British the Zulu people decided as a whole that they didn't want to be under British rule and in 1879 war erupted between the British and the Zulu. Though the Zulu succeeded at first they were in 6 months conquered by the British who exiled the Zulu Kings and divided up the Zulu kingdom. In 1906 another Zulu uprising was lead and the Zulu continue to try to gain back what they consider to be their ancient kingdom.

The Zulu believe in a creator god known as Nkulunkulu, but this god does not interact with humans and has no interest in everyday life. Therefore, most Zulu's interact on a day to day level with the spirits. In order to interact with the spirits the Zulu must use divination to interact with the ancestors. All misfortune is a result of a evil sorcery or offended spirits, nothing just happens because of natural causes. The Zulu are best known for their bead work and basketry. There have also been some figural sculpture questionably attributed to them. Zulu architecture is quite complex, and the dress or fashion of the Zulu has been carefully studied. Zulu and Zulu shields have become well known all around the worldZulu warrior Rural Zulu raise cattle and farm corn and vegetables for subsistence purposes. The men and herd boys are primarily responsible for the cows, which are grazed in the open country, while the women do most, if not all, of the planting and harvesting.Zulu chief

The women also are the owners of the family house and have Zulu warrior sunsetconsiderable economic clout within the family. In the urban areas of South Africa, Zulu, and in fact all Africans, are limited to labor intensive work and domestic duties. Even as Apartheid as an institution has been dismantled, it is still extremely difficult for Africans to compete for jobs for which they have not been trained, and the country is still entrenched in de facto racism. Zulu peopleThe most famous Zulu warrior, Shaka Zulu, who, after the death of his father Senzangakhona, conquered many nations and amalgamated them under his reign, thus creating a huge Zulu nation.

The name AmaZulu literally means the people of heaven. Shaka was the third born son of Senzangakhona. When Senzangakhona died in 1816, Shaka took over the reigns and within a time period of twelve years he became the greatest leader of his time. He formed the phenomenal nation of the Zulu people. During his wars that were known as Mfecane (or Difaqane), many people fled KwaZulu-Natal, then known as Natal, and moved north, spreading along their paths the IsiZulu language. In 1828 Dingaan, Shakas brother, assassinated him.

After Shakas death in 1828, Dingaan became the king of the Zulu's but was killed in the battle of Ncome. However, the Zulu people won this battle. Cetshwayo, his brother, took over the reigns and in 1879 the Zulu warriors defeated the British in the battle of Isandlwana. In 1887 the British annexed Natal, today known as KwaZulu-Natal, and later incorporated Natal into a colony. Many of the cultures, customs, and traditions of Shakas time remain the corner stones of the Zulu people, and each year the Zulu nation celebrates the Heritage Day during which they commemorate their hero, Shaka Zulu and also revive their cultural traditions.

A selection of African Zulu shields available at African Crafts Market
Zulu shield- Brown/whiteAfrican Zulu shield- brown/whiteZulu shield - BlackZulu shield- Black/white
Zulu shield brown

Click here Learn about more African tribes and traditions

The Ashanti tribe ~ The Bushman tribe ~The Maasai (Masai) tribe ~The Ndebele tribe ~The Shona tribe ~The Zulu tribe ~ The Teke people / Kidumu tribe

AFRICAN CRAFTS MARKET is a company situated in South Africa that has many Zulu pieces of art available for sale, from the lovely Zulu bead work and grass weave baskets through the traditional Zulu and shields. To view the items that may be of interests to you go to our gallery pages on our website at

Zulu tribe

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Zulu people