Zulu Research Paper
if the largest social group of American people was sporting the latest trends of nudity for unmarried women? Or practiced modern Christianity, but with a Dutch twist? What if instead of the recent hit line dance the “Cha Cha Slide” was instead a traditional African Gumboot dance? These are all typical traits of South Africa’s largest group of people, the Zulu population. As a wonderful South African population, the Zulu people pride themselves over their origins, language, and religions.
Today one shall discover and be able to easily identify, understand, and optimally relate to the wonderful Zulu traditions in culture, language, religion, education, social values and organization, economics, government, and globalization. The Zulu people have a rather large population with a widespread demographic. The Zulu people are the largest South African ethnic group. The Zulu Kingdom is a Kingdom in South Africa in former Zulu Bantustan. To the north, it borders Mozambique, to the east Swaziland and lawless South Africa, and to the west it is bordered by the Indian Ocean.
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Found south of the Zulu Kingdom is KwaXhosa, which was founded only twenty-four short years ago in 1988. Zulu Inhabitants commonly refer to the nation as Zululand, however outsiders and foreigners refer to it by the name KwaZulu. It is estimated, and conservatively so, that there are at least 10 to 11 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu, or, as often referred to, KwaZulu-Natal. In addition to this population, there are also small numbers of self-identifying Zulu people who reside primarily in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.
Zululand is a state with fourteen “associate republics” and an additional ten “territories. ” Zululand is a multiethnic African nationalist state encompassing most of the southern third of the African continent. Formed in a series of bloody wars during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Zululand was created with the idea of an all-African country where various people would live together in harmony under a national government composed of representatives of those people, similar to Zanzibar’s model. Zanzibar is an east African semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.
In this province, once a protectorate of Britain, the inhabitants are of extremely diverse ethnic origins. Yet, they all were able to create an incredible bond together in order to avoid British control and, subsequently, have successfully created their own land. This territory now has a functional government serving nearly one million people. Today they are known for their extreme fortune in spices and other agriculture. It is of no surprise that the Zulu people would wish to create something so similar to what has originated in Zanzibar.
However, to its disadvantage, Zululand has suffered from tribal inharmoniousness, including conflict bordering on civil war, and has deep inequalities in wealth in different parts of the country. It could easily be justified to say that the Zulu’s size of 11 million, nearly twelve times that of Zanzibar, is far from being in the favor of peace for the Zulus. Still, the Congress of the Africans in the Zulu capital, located in the Great Harare, is regarded as one of the few places in Africa, besides Zanzibar, where various people are able to come and, without question, receive equal representation.
One of the primary parts of what identifies a person is their language. The Zulu language is no exception. The Zulu language is called Zulu or, natively, isiZulu. Zulu has about nineteen thousand words and one of the most complex dialects in the world. As typical with Bantu languages, a lot of the sounds made are compromised of clicking noises. Over ninety-five percent of the language’s native speakers live in South Africa. IsiZulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa, by a whopping twenty four percent of the population, as well as being understood by over half of the population.
IsiZulu became one of South Africa’s eleven official languages in 1994. In fact, IsiZulu is the second most widely spoken Bantu language after Shona. IsiZulu, like all indigenous Southern African languages, was an exclusively oral language until contact with new missionaries from Europe, who documented the language using the Latin script. Norwegian missionary Hans Schreuder published the first grammar book of the IsiZulu language in Norway in 1850. The first written document in IsiZulu was a Bible translation that appeared in 1883. Many Dutch and English words have been incorporated into the language.
In IsiZulu the vowels are spoken as follows, “a” is pronounced a : as in army, i : as in pink, u : as in ruler, e : as in leg, o : as in old. The consonants can get tricky though. All these consonants are followed by a soft sounding h as in hand: p : as in plank, b : as in bush, t : as in tank, k : as in kite. These letters are pronounced the same way they are in English: v : as in vase, l : as in like, sh : as in ship, f : as in father, y : as in yield, hl : as in tenthly, m : as in map, s : as in sing, nhl : as in gently, n : as in nine, z : as in zoo.
The Zulu people have unique origination leading them to their current, modern day existence. The Zulu were originally a major clan in what is today Northern KwaZulu-Natal, founded as an army due to differing and clashing opinions over the circumcision process of young males. As always, the Zulu people place much focus on rights of passage, and the circumcision process was one that ultimately led them to stand up for their beliefs and literally become who they are today. Under apartheid, Zulu people were classified as third-class citizens and suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination.
Today, the Zulu remain the most numerous ethnic group in South Africa, and now pride themselves with equal rights along with all other fellow citizens. The small kingdom of Zululand grew to dominate much of Southern Africa, and when faced with conflict with the British Empire in the 1870’s during the Anglo-Zulu War, KwaZulu was defeated despite the early Zulu victories in the war. Subsequently, the area was absorbed into the Colony of Natal and later became part of the Union of South Africa.
KwaZulu was originally a Bantustan in South Africa, which, under control of the apartheid government, was intended to be a semi-independent homeland for the Zulu people. A bantustan, or an African homeland, was a territory reserved for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa, which is now known as Namibia, as a portion of the policy of apartheid. Ten bantustans were established in South Africa, and an additional ten in neighboring South-West Africa, which was then under South African administration, for the purpose of concentrating the members of certain designated ethnic groups.
The goal of this idea was to make each of those territories ethnically identical in order to create “autonomous” nation states for South Africa’s different black ethnic groups. Shortly after the apartheid governance collapsed, the bantustans were able to establish order within their borders. The capital, which was formerly at Nongoma, was moved to Ulundi in 1980. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Zulu tribe, and presiding head of the Inkatha Freedom Party, led KwaZulu in the capital until the party’s abolition in 1984.
Having such an in depth and colorful history, it’s not surprising that religion is more than important to these people. Eileen Krige explains it best when she said “ there is hardly an aspect in Zulu life in which religion does not play its part – in warfare, in first-fruit ceremonies, in the different crises in the life of the individual, everywhere the ancestors are looked to for help and guidance and propitiated with offerings. ” Ancestral spirits are, and always have been, extremely important in Zulu religious life. The Zulu believe in vague “powers” of natural phenomena such as Unkulunkulu.
Unkulunkulu, or the Old, Old One, is the creator of the first cause. Zulu believe that Unkulunkulu is responsible for the origin of the world and man. Their story of this says that Unkulunkulu broke off first from a bed of reeds, and then all other man broke off after him. Not only did man break off of the reed, but also so did everything else including cattle, corn, and all other wildlife and agriculture. The word Unkulunkulu is also used in reference to an original ancestor, a name given to the founder of a house or the first ancestor of the family. This ancestor is both worshiped and prayed to.
Offerings and sacrifices are made for protection, good health, and happiness. However, the Zulu do not worship the Unkulunkulu whom they broke off from. They say that though they sprang from him, they do not worship him because he left no progeny. Instead, they choose to worship the Unkulunkulu whom they have known. However, he is often the subject of teasing at the expense of the children. If they are caught in mischief, an elder is sent to “call” for Unkulunkulu, similar to the American tradition of our parents telling Santa Claus. The Zulu also have beliefs towards the use of magic.
The Zulu people believe that ancestral spirits come back to the world in the form of dreams, illnesses, and, to be more tangible, sometimes snakes. When an ancestor, or iDlozi, wishes to revisit the world it does so in the form of a snake. Anything beyond the understanding of the Zulu, such as bad luck and illness, is considered to have been sent by an angry spirit. The ancestor does not inhabit the existent body of a snake, but instead morphs into their own. These snakes are distinct and well known among the Zulu people and are not confused to with those of common origins.
For instance, a chief or village head turns into a green mamba snake. When these snakes visit a community, the daughter-in-law of the deceased will wear a veil and a beast will be slaughtered to feed the spirit-snake. On the day the meat of the beast is finished, the spirit snake will leave the village. However, seen as far from a blessing, some aged women return in the form of a lizard. These lizards are known to crawl onto the roofs and ceilings of huts and fall onto the people underneath. These lizards are hateful to the Zulus because they are seen to be omens of future evil.
When this happens, the help of a soothsayer or herbalist is sought. He or she will communicate with the ancestors or use natural herbs and prayers to rid the problem. Omens are considered to be especially frightening in Zulu culture. Though sometimes revealed as lizards, they are more often sent by ancestors are dreams. These messages are meant to warn of coming disasters. Other things can also be constituted as omens, however. When livestock go against a natural flow, such acts are considered omen and the animal is slaughtered and it’s meat destroyed.
For instance, if a calf is to refuse feeding from its mother or if a bird catches a grasshopper. In the latter case, it is believed that whomever the bird drops the grasshopper by is to soon die. More modernly, however, many Zulu converted to Christianity under colonialism. Even with the modern influences of Christianity and the overwhelming amount of Christian converts, ancestral beliefs in the Zulu community have far from disappeared. Instead, there has become a sort of mixture of traditional beliefs and those of Christianity. This kind of religion is particularly common among urban inhabitants of Zululand.
Yet, as to be expected, there are also steadfast Zulu Christians who view any tolerance of ancestral belief to be not only terribly outdated, but also sinful and irreverent. In 1901, John Dube, a Zulu from Natal, created the Ohlange Institute. This institute is the first native educational institution in South Africa. He was also the author of Insila kaShaka, the first novel written in the isiZulu language. In addition, another pioneering Zulu writer was Reginald Dhlomo. Dhlomo is the author of several historical novels of the nineteenth-century leaders of the Zulu nation.
Other notable contributors to Zulu literature include Benedict Wallet Vilakazi and, more recently, Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali. Other than this, there is little to be found about Zulu education. However, it is common knowledge that illiteracy is at extremely high rates among most South Africans. However, education is slowly improving with the implementation of a new government. Before these changes had started to be made, children were only sent to school in the rare cases that their parents could afford to send them. Schooling started at seven years of age and continued until about twenty-four years of age.
Since education was not essential or required, as is in our culture, students could take their time to finish matric (high school). Passing high school and graduating both was and still is regarded as a high achievement by the whole community. Upon graduation, the parents who can afford it usually send their children to college. Education and raising a child is like a cycle among the Zulu. Parents spend all they have to raise and educate their children. In turn, the children take care of their parents and their own children when they start working.
A person who breaks this cycle is viewed as a community outcast, one who has forgotten about his or her roots. Though, since most are unable to afford sending their children to contemporary schools, a lot of the educating processes for children are similar to what we refer to as teaching the trade. Their community revolves around a lot of farming and agriculture, so children are taught to preform the tasks necessary to having a successful career and family. Ideologically, this is not any different from what American parents do in modern culture. In fact, it’s often shown to be more beneficial in many aspects of life.
The social system of the Zulus places an extreme emphasis on kinship and family. These values infiltrate almost every part of their normal life and culture, underlying as a useful concept to understand whilst trying to grasp the concepts of Zulu life. As done in most primitive and traditional societies, the Zulu find kinship to be extremely extensive in order to bring the people together as such a tight-knit group. Doing so establishes a remarkable bond amongst the society. This type of social system provides every Zulu person with a number of acting “parents,” and an extremely large circle of brothers and sisters.
However, the immediate family is still considered to be first priority. Though the men usually practice polygamy and have several wives, each one of his wives has her own hut, thus forming a family unit distinct from that of the other wives. Within the family, there are certain social norms that are practiced. For instance, if one’s father is present, they are not to speak unless directly addressed. Though still important, the mother is less respected than the father and is not always regarded with as high respect and reverence by the children.
Even so, when a child is in trouble or has been fussed at by their father, they still run to their mother as a safe haven to comfort them. Often times the mother is able to go to the father and more or less reach a sort of “deal” in the child’s favor. The sibling relationship is not much different than that of which we are used to, all children are considered equal and partake in the same social roles. The only true exception here is that an elder brother always demands respect. For the most part, sibling’s behavior towards each other can be described as rather friendly, and that of a spirit of cooperation instead of conflict.
This social equivalence between siblings is rather important not only in it’s ideals of kinship, but also in its application in the marriage customs of the Zulu. When a woman is pregnant, her sister is sent to take some of her responsibilities. As their equal, this causes no disruption. Likewise, when an elder brother passes away, his younger brother then inherits his wives. In Zulu tradition, none of this is odd. In addition to having a large family and classification system, the Zulu also place tremendous emphasis on something they call the sib.
A sib is unilineal, including family on one side of the family exclusive to the other. The Zulu sib is patrilineal, claiming descent from a common ancestor, which is very commonly unknown. People regard the house of each man as having the same isibongo, or praise name, as himself or his own home, and it is assumed that this be the owner’s father or brother. A man only has to walk in and tell his sib name, and he will be treated as an equal part of the family and, without hesitation, will be greeted into the household. One of the greatest dishonors one could ever commit would be to drink milk with another sib.
Doing so would in turn mean that you are actively pledging blood brotherhood with that sib and would prevent you from marrying within that family. In Zulu culture, little emphasis is placed on that of an outside government. The lifestyle is very simplistic, everyone pitches in to suffice and maintain their own family and mind their own business. The kraal, or head, of each family acts as the leader of that large group of people.
Everyone takes respect as a number one goal, and works to maintain healthy relations within their family. Each member works diligently to provide for the entire roup, and with the emphasis on kinship, things tend to generally work well. The Zulu economy is handled strictly within the village. Chiefly these economic activities are about cattle rearing and agriculture. These exchanges are carried on extremely meticulously with a clear division of labor, which is determined by gender. Men, as a general rule, take responsibility for the more abrasive tasks that require strength and handy abilities. Women, on the other hand, naturally pick up household work. They cook, make beer, sweep, wash dishes, and fetch after the firewood and water.
Their daughters help them with these tasks starting at a young age. As young children, they are responsible for fetching the wood and water, and as they mature their tasks evolve into looking over their baby brothers and sisters. Agriculture is often taken care of by a special group of women. They hoe the ground, sow, weed, and reap the crops, and then manually grind the corn and grain to be used in cooking. Women also make the pots, mats, and ropes. Very different to American culture, women carry the entire load of luggage on trips.
The men walk in front empty handed but are willing to defend the tribe if needed. And, women are always responsible for the thatching of huts. Taking on a more leisurely activity, women take to bead and jewelry making along with basket weaving. With cattle being the most valuable economic asset to Zululand, all work to be done with cattle is handled by the men. Men, or boys, both herd and milk the cattle. They even wash the milking utensils themselves, because women are to have absolutely nothing to do with operations concerning the care for cattle.
The only role men play in agriculture is hewing bushes where new lands are to be cultivated, or assisting in the reaping during busy seasons. Hut building, with the exception of the thatch work, is a man’s duty as well. Men, who partake in basket weaving, often make wooden utensils as well. Sometimes they are able to specialize in metal work. Metal work, again, is a trade exclusive to the male gender. Men do most market trading, and for leisure they pass time drinking beer and socializing. Globalization seems to have all to do, and little to do, with Zulu culture.
For the most part, Zulu traditions have remained unchanged. Though some religious beliefs have been altered, no one was able to successfully renovate the culture. Globalization allowed the Zulu people a chance to take the one thing that had remained most important to them: their freedom. Since these circumstances ultimately allowed this, after some hardship, it is believed that globalization did not change their culture negatively, and instead, make have ultimately helped them. Now, the Zulu people are able to tend to their large families without discrimination and cooperate peacefully.
Globalization did affect them in two main aspects, however. Globalization altered both their educational system and their religion. With globalization underway, the Zulu culture was exposed to Christianity. Most modern generation Zulu people state their religion to be Christianity, but it is far from what we believe here in America. As previously noted, Zulu Christianity has given way to a sort of melting pot for the two systems, creating a sort of mixed religion incorporating both our beliefs in God and heaven with theirs of ancestral spirits and unexplained natural phenomena.
Globalization also altered traditional Zulu educational systems. Prior to the influence of colonialism, it was rare, if ever, to send a child to matric. But, with breakthroughs thanks to notable Zulu people and schools like John Dube and the Ohlange Institute, sending a child through high school and college is pricey, but not impossible. The Zulu people are more than justified in priding themselves on using globalization to their benefit, and not allowing it to diminish their traditions and native culture. In fact, the Zulu people seem to have flourished and grown as a society using globalization to their advantage.
In conclusion, the Zulu people exude rich cultural beliefs and practices, all centering around their language, religion, education, social structure, and the lasting effects of globalization. Much of what is important to a Zulu person is their family and religion. It is primarily through these two things the Zulu are able to successfully retain important traditions, values, and skills, such as basket weaving and cattle raising, that seem to be minimally compromised throughout the years as the have been passed down generationally.
As the largest South African group, all of the eleven million Zulu people are able to currently pride themselves with equal rights and privileges among their fellow citizens, a belief that led them to fight many bloody battles amongst themselves and their neighboring provinces to establish their strong modern day presence.