When it comes to numbers, the Zulu tribe (locally known as amaZulu) dominates the South African region, with a few residing in Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Their language is simply known as Zulu and they were classified as third class citizens. So let’s take a closer look at the Zulu People – key in South Africa’s colorful history!
During the 19th to 20th century, their kingdom played a major role in Southern Africa’s rich culture and history. In the era where Apartheid was still practiced, they suffered most from discrimination among their race. Now, they share equal rights among other people on the continent.
Formerly part of a much larger clan in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal, the Zulu kingdom was established in 1816 under the reign of their king Shaka. He started out his venture in uniting confederated tribes. This paved the way for the Zulu hegemony to dramatically grow in size.
The Feud with British
During the reign of King Cetshwayo, British agents had given an ultimatum dictating that the chief of different tribes under the Zulu hegemony surrender under the British Empire. Check out also this article about African History and Heritage.
Of course, Cetshwayo refused; and this ignited a series of epic wars between the two factions. During the ‘Battle of Isandlwana’, Cetshwayo won triumphantly. However, the tides changed in favor of the British during the second battle held at Rorke’s Drift. The tie was broken when the British finally won, defeating Cetshwayo and his army during the ‘Ulundi Battle’. But even today, the exploitation of African nations continues. It’s like the game never stops and that history repeats itself over and over again.
In recent times, KwaZulu-Natal remained the heartland of the Zulu people. But with the economic developments and prosperity within the neighboring provinces such as Gauteng, the Zulu people were evenly distributed to different locations. Maybe now we can witness some brain regain instead of brain drain. Even in small towns and marketplaces, the Zulu language can be heard among the citizens of Southern Africa. The tribe even reached Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Zambia, with their own local names being Amandabele, Xigubo, and Abangoni respectively.
Even in the political aspect of Southern Africa, the Zulus played a vital role in the country’s developments. Their Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress were apparently clear proof of their involvement in the government. The Inkatha Freedom Party was basically a cultural movement of Zulu, which later became a political party, whereas the National Congress has the philosophy of fighting for the health and rights of all black people.
Like other African tribes, the Zulus have a variety of clothing traditions for all occasions. Be it ceremonial or rather a more westernized means, they vibrantly show the tribe’s uniqueness where women have specific attires whether married or single. Education remains an issue in many places across Africa though Christianity (with all its strong commitment to education) is the dominant religion amongst the Zulus; they are said to be part of the Zion Christian Church. Some are even part of bigger churches of Europe, like Catholic Churches and Dutch Reformed. The fact of the matter is, though, that the education outlook in South Africa, but actually also in the entire African continent, is worrisome though the economic outlooks are relatively good for the coming decades.
They first believed in the existence of a God or creator named ‘Unkulunkulu’. He is believed to be part of the daily interactions among the Zulu people, though most believed that early Christian missionaries first depicted the role of God and frame the concept on their practices. Let’s hope that today, tourism will help South Africa’s poor without destroying the original traditions of Zuku culture. Zulu has a diverse culture, blending modern-day beliefs with the traditional ones.