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Posted by on Jul 26, 2013 in African | 0 comments

Historical Evolution Of South-African Zulu Tribe’s Culture And Traditions

Historical Evolution Of South-African Zulu Tribe’s Culture And Traditions

Review about ancient south african tribe zulu's religion, traditions, customs,food, family life art-craft and historical elements.

South African tribe Zulu tribe arose in the 18th century from many different groups of inhabitants of South Africa. These groups fought each other for the gazing rights by shouting insults and throwing assegai on each other.

The evolution of Zulus took place with the Nguni people movement towards south along with their groups. These movements took place for over a thousand years which then settled in the region of white Umfolozi river under the leadership of Malandela.

Malandela’s wife was called Nozinja and they had two sons, Quabe, then Zulu. After Malandela’s death, Quabe eyed the small herd of the group so Nozinja, Zulu and a servant moved a short distance away to found a new home.

Zulu defendants were Punga, Mageba, Ndaba, Jama and, at the end of the 18th century, Senzangakhona. The Zulu group was very small and occupied only an area of a few square kilo-meters.

Senzangakhona had an affair with Nandi the daughter of a neighbouring chief of the Elangeni group. The result of this liaison was a boy, named Shaka, born in 1787 as an illegitimate son. His name comes from uShaka, a beetle said to inhabit the stomach and give rise to a bloated abdomen – as Nandi’s pregnancy progressed.

He was strong and fearless. He changed war tactics and developed the short stabbing spear. He conquered and won a large area with his fighting skills, weapons and attitude.

Zulus assisted both the Boers and the English during the Boer War of 1899 – 1902. Promises of emancipation made to them by the British were not honored and a growing resentment grew during the years between union (1910) and the advent of the Afrikaner Nationalists in 1948.

After secession from the Commonwealth in 1960, the Zulus joined with other black groups in the struggle against apartheid until the first democratic elections in 1994.

South African zulu tribe culture has the following ingredients:

About Family Life

The Boys

Boys are given different names at different ages by their family and friends. They are expected to look after family and fields while they also do stick fighting as pass time.

Sticks are used to train boys to fight. They can lend a painful blow. After the age of fifteen the boys are provided with their own spears. Girls are taught to do household tasks along with looking after children. She is also trained in carrying out field work.

The Men

The man of the house owns the hut and its contents. He attends the social meetings and makes all the decisions. Wives are regarded as inferior in all respects. They look after children and do all household work.


Wives are regarded as inferior in all respects. They look after children and do all household work.

The Chief

The tribal chief is called inkosi and has powerful role and influenc on the whole community. If he fails as king he is served a death penalty.


The Zulu Grandmother is the object of reverence and exerts considerable influence. She lives in the large hut of the ancestors.


Zulu tribe culture regards polygamy or many wives to a man as social status. In fact man’s respect is judged by  number of wives he kept.The first wife has powerful role along with the grandmother. Each wife has separate hut, herds, fields and cooks.


Sex without penetration is allowed among the young couple without marriage in south African zulu tribe culture. In case of penetration, the boy pays the beast to the girl’s father. In case of am unwanted pregnancy, the boy has to bear the blame and responsibility.


Traditionally, a reed mat is used with a small bench acting as a pillow among the south African zulu tribe culture.


Lobola in zulu tribe culture of south africa is the practice of paying the future father in law with cattle, for a wife. If the wife is deficient in any way, the father in law is expected to make a replacement available or refund some or all of the cattle.

The cattle are used to recompense the father in law for the expense of her upbringing and the loss of her services.


In south African zulu tribe culture the Greeting: Sawubona (I see you) the response is Yebo, Sawubona. This is the person of the higher standing greeting the inferior member.

Excessive eye contact is considered to be provocative and is avoided, particularly between women and men.

The Handshake: Firstly the conventional shake, then clasping thumbs around thumbs and finally another conventional handshake.

Food: The men are served according to their standing, then the women, then the children, boys before girls.

Seating Order: Men always sit on the right of the hut with those of highest standing to the rear.
Giving: right hand is used to give something while the left hand supports the right at the elbow to show that nothing is hidden.

Sitting: One is always expected to sit on a hide or shield.


Women has the duty of brewing the beer The beer vessel is held in the right hand and the saucer with the left and the beer is drunk sitting or squatting. Rubbing the stomach compliments the brewer. 


Zulu food items consist of Maize, tubers and pumpkin are mostly eaten in different forms. Tomatoes, cabbage and onions are popular when available.

Eating is hygienic, each member using his own plate and utensils. Hands are washed before eating and mouths are washed after.

Religion & Spritual life

unKulunkulu: unkulunkulu (the greatest of the great) is spirit world where the ancestors are believed to live. They are worshipped and served many offerings. Sangoma is the spiritual healer who practice witchcraft and spiritual healing.

A female spirit –inkosazana – is thought to make maize grow and is fêted in the spring

Chief is buried in cattkin in sitting position. Other members are left to the animals after their deaths.

Art & Craft

Zulu Baskets: Varieties of vessels are made from clay, grass,split leaves of ilala palm and telephone wire. They carry patterns and designs made of natural pigments and colorants.

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