Information pertaining to the African Tribe “Zulu”

Zulu: People of Heaven

The name Zulu originated because one of the first settlers had 2 sons, one which was named Zulu. His personality, spirit and determination and marriage, started and from then on represented a new culture. ( (1)).

GEOGRAPHY – Zulu are a South African ethnic group of about 10 million people who live mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique.

-descended from the Nguni people who lived in central east Africa.

( a mystical land called “Embo”, according to tribal story tellers. 

-Moved south in 16, 17th cent. ( Nguni people).

-King Shaka- United the AmaZulu, became a proud and powerful nation.

-Zulu kingdom played a major role in South African History during the 19th century.

-Under apartheid, Zulu people were the 2nd class people and discriminated against.

-Today most numerous ethnic group in country, strive for equal rights (1)


For the Zulu tribe, kinship, especially unilineal kinship, has lost it’s meaning. The Zulu communities were “organized regardless of kinship according to the ability of the local chief to recruit a following.” In kingdoms such as the Zulu, the leaders see kinship as a competition.


In rural Zulu they raise cattle, farm corn and vegetables for survival purposes. The men and the 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. The women of the Zulu tribe are the owners of the family house and have considerable amount of economic influence within the family. The Zulu tribe, like the majority of Africa, are limited to labor intensive work and domestic duties. It is 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. (3)


Rural Zulu People-

live in villages

usually without electricity, running water

houses made of mud, brick, and more modern cheap materials that are available.

aristocracy tends to play major role on leadership of Zulus

living off-basketry , bead work

–sell to other habitants, tourists, guides, etc.

-some are subsistence farmers

—more prominent trend is one member of the family goes into city and gets a job and helps to support family at back home.


live in township

mostly middle class,

suburban houses,

common middle class jobs ( (2)).

many also speak English or Afrikaans or Portuguese

Zulu is the most widely spoken language in South Africa, with more than half of the South African population able to understand it.


RELIGIONS - Zulu can be Christians (whether Roman Catholics or Protestants in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, or part-Christian, part-animist-African in Zimbabwe) or pure-animists.Zulu religion includes belief in a creator god (Nkulunkulu), who is above interacting in day-to-day human affairs. It is possible to appeal to the spirit world only by invoking the ancestors (AmaDlozi) through divination processes. As such, the diviner, who is almost always a woman, plays an important part in the daily lives of the Zulu. It is believed that all bad things, including death, are the result of evil sorcery or offended spirits. No misfortune is ever seen as the result of natural causes. Another important aspect of Zulu religion is cleanliness. Separate utensils and plates were used for different foods, and bathing often occurred up to three times a day.




A Zulu wedding celebration is a very complex process. A man may have as many wives as he can wants. A man is also allowed to have unmarried “sweethearts”, but a wife may only be married to one man, and if she has an affair, the consequences are fatal.

Preparation - The groom must first present himself to the bride’s family and ask for permission to marry their daughter. If they say yes he must pay them at least two cows.
There is an open invitation to the wedding by placing a white flag atop a poll to symbolize a wedding will take place. Everyone is welcome.

Wedding ceremony - The date of the wedding must be a night when the moon is bright.
The first part of the wedding takes place at the church, and during this time the bride is dressed in white. After church the wedding occurs at the bridegroom’s home and the bride changes into traditional outfit. Bride and groom wear rings to show that they are husband und wife. During the ceremony the family of the groom slaughters a cow to show that they accept the bride in their home. The bride puts money inside the stomach of the cow while the crowd looks on. This is a sign that she is now part of the family. The wedding ceremony ends with the bride giving gifts in the form of blankets to her new family, including the extended family. The family cover themselves with the blankets in
an open area where everybody will see. During the traditional wedding the parties from the bride and the groom’s side compete through Zulu dance and songs. All the people are singing and dancing the whole day. Two cows and two sheep are slaughtered which will be cooked in big black pots. They eat the meat with pap. After eating they drink home made beer.

Clothes- The bride will change numerous times a day to show her in-laws that she is beautiful. After church they change clothes from formal to traditional. The bride will wear a long skirt with beads, a top and a long round hat. The groom will wear a leopard skin hat and another skin around his shoulders and around his waist.



One Zulu tradition takes place in the selling and exchanging of crafted goods: A Zulu women who is selling or trading her crafted goods will always pass with her right hand. Her left palm placed under right forearm.

— the meaning of this is to assure the buyer that she has no weapons, to diminish fear and show trust.


- Zulu Beadwork- Very important aspect of the culture.

                           - Beadwork has many significant meanings, according to arrangement, context

                                    Gender and many other things

                           - color of beads is important

                                    Ex. if a young girl gives beads to a young male , it may symbolize she has

                                                Feelings or thoughts for someone.


-Shaka regime military influence: stick fighting

                        - male teenagers and men settle their personal differences in a public dual.