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The Zulu Nation

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The Zulu culture is one of the most unique cultures. This culture was an independent nation located in South Africa. We will examine their belief and their values, the kinship and also the political organization in the Zulu culture. The Zulu culture is located in South Africa in the territory called the Kwa-zulu –Natal Province. The Kwa-zulu – Natal Province is a beautiful place, which consist of sandy beaches, plain hills and streaming rivers. In their language Zulu means heaven. There are over seven million Zulu today that still live in Kwa-Zulu-Natal Province (Gleimius & Mthimunye, 2003).The Zulu today still follow all of the customs of their ancestors, from their beliefs to their political organization in the culture. The Zulu culture political system consists of kings, these kings ruled over “tribe or clan” (Mahoney, 1879). The political organization of the Zulu culture is more of a monarchy. The king holds the judicial and legislative power. The legislation contain of a group of men known as counsel or headsmen. These headsmen are head of the important families to the king, to advise him on certain matters (Mackinnon, 2001).

Members of the king’s family would fight each other to become king, if they felt that the king did not deserve the crown, they would challenge the crown holder. The Zulu culture had a very advance political system which gave the king authority over the tribe. The political system also consists of a very strong and brilliant military force. In 1816, Shaka Zulu was one of the greatest military generals to come into power in South Africa (An African Biographical Dictionary, 2006). Shaka Zulu father was a minor chief, which shows that he was part of the royal family. Shaka Zulu murdered and killed all of his relatives to make sure he did not have any conflict regarding the royal crown (An African Biographical Dictionary, 2006). This shows that Shaka Zulu did not want any of his relatives to challenge him for the crown. The military force under Shaka Zulu power destroyed all neighboring clans and tribes, Shaka was one of the best military strategists that conquered and terrified all his opponents. An African Biographical Dictionary, (2006) stated that “At his death, Shaka’s empire included about 250,000 people. The Zulu nation remained a powerful element in southern Africa until its defeat by the British in 1879.

The Zulu have remained a united people and an important factor in modern South African politics”. The Zulu nation was an independent nation from 1810 to 1879. The British Empire came in and they invaded the Natal Province. The Zulu culture was under the British administration from 1879-1897. The Zulu nation regained their independence back from the British in 1897 (Mahoney, 2012). The political system was still in effect, even after the Zulu culture was under the British administration. There were two chiefs that ruled over the Zulu Nation which were, Cetshwayo from 1874-1884 and also Dinizulu who ruled from 1884-1914 (Mahoney, 2012). After the British, the Zulu Nations political organization became more organized and structured. The Zulu culture kinship is known as an extended family. The blood relation is an important part in Zulu life. The only way to establish rank is though the father. They use the extended kinship in this culture, if child losses his or her parents, then he will not be an orphan, someone else will take on the responsible for the child.

The Zulu culture has many tribes and clans. The clans of the Nguni were polygamous if the man was wealthy and have a status among the people, and then he could have as many wives (Knight, 1989). The other clans of the Zulu culture are based on monogamous even though polygamy is still practiced in the Zulu culture (Mpilo, 2002). According to Encyclopedia of World Cultures Supplement they stated that “the extended family is important for economic assistance and on ritual and ceremonial occasions. Matrilineal kin are also vital and are expected to appear at important ceremonies involving a daughter or sister’s children. Children born to unmarried women belong to the mothers’ kin” (Mpilo, 2002). The Kinship within the Zulu culture helps with the economic and social organization of the culture. The Zulu culture has great value regarding marriage, regarding if it is polygamous or monogamous.

The women tend to adopt the identity of the householder, outside the household with social gatherings or outside communication the women are addressed by the surname of her father. Which indicate that the father’s lineage in the Zulu culture is very important, also all of the children belong to the father lineage ( Mpilo, 2002). The extended families in the Zulu culture are very unique, cousins are referred to as brother and sisters, aunts are referred to as moms (White & Bregman, 2012 ). Each individual family member contributes and works together in harmony for the society. The Zulu work in harmony with each other, family member that are not associated with working together in harmony are dealt with. The Zulu always have to maintain balance in the society. If there is a disagreement or grudges, the Zulu will have family gatherings which are very important to resolve any issues (White & Bregman, 2012 ). Since the Zulu have different tribes and clans, any disagreement they have with other tribes, they will travel a great distance to make the family gatherings to resolve any conflicts (White & Bregman, 2012 ).

The family gatherings, brings rebalance back to the societies of the Zulu Nation. The Zulu culture participates in traditional celebrations, which consist of dancing, eating and drinking of beer (White & Bregman, pg. 337). The culture also has a lot of rituals that they do perform at these celebrations. Particularly, the slaughter of cattle and goats are part of a ritual that the Zulu culture performs during the traditional celebrations. The Zulu culture consists of a lot of ceremonies, these ceremonies are important in the Zulu culture. Most of the ceremonies are based on an individual’s stage in life, a young girl’s first menstruation is an important ceremony, and this celebration is called umhlonyane. The Zulu people celebrates this by slaughtering a goat, this implies that the young girl is now a women (Mpilo, 2012). These ceremonies also consist of young women who are ready to be married, this is a festival called umemulo. This is also a traditional ceremony that includes the slaughtering of a cow (Mpilo, 2012). The Zulu have marriage ceremonies which are called umshado, and also ceremonies for the deceased (Mpilo, 2012).

The Zulu culture also have royal ceremonies, the royal ceremonies is when the women dance around the king’s palace, which there are thousands of onlookers watching the celebration (Mpilo, 2012). Encyclopedia of World Cultures Supplement states that “The king maintains the traditional privilege of choosing a wife from among those women”. The Zulu have a Shaka Zulu celebration, this is celebration happens on September 24 of each year (Mpilo, 2012). The Zulu call this day Shaka day, but the new South African government called the name which today is called Heritage Day. This day is important to the Zulu people and also South Africans, this is a historical day for the people of South Africa. The Zulu’s have a very strong beliefs and values; they tend to believe in many Gods. There are some that are Christians in today’s society. Examining the belief system of the Zulu they mixed Christianity with the traditional religious beliefs of the Zulu. The Zulu has the beliefs of the spirits of their ancient ancestors.

While examining the beliefs of the Zulu culture, they have been following the traditional African religious beliefs which they depend on the ancient ancestors to guide them and help them. This shows that the Zulu culture does not have any written guidance, they ask their ancestors to teach them about wisdom, principles of harmony and to teach them about matter and the mind (Montero-Ferreira, 2005). The Zulu believe in Unkulunkul which is an ancient men and women, the Zulu thinks that Unkulunkul was specify assigned for them (Montero-Ferreira, 2005). This goes to show why they do not believe in one Supreme God. Analyzing the Zulu they tend believe that Unkulunkul is the creator but they do not pray to him, why is this? The Zulu believes that Unkulunkul is far away, they do acknowledge that he is the creator; by looking at nature, humans, and the things that Unkulunkul created they know that he is there and respects his creations (Montero-Ferreira, 2005).

Unlike most religious beliefs, which consist of good and evil, the Zulu believe that there is good and bad, and men are responsible to control these things that happen. The Zulu people pray to the ancestors, which are the bearers of balance among the people (Montero-Ferreira, 2005). These ancestors that they pray to are sprits of the dead. They believe that these sprits will watch over them, give them wealth, and tend to their cattle (Montero-Ferreira, 2005). While worshiping these spirits, they do ritual animal sacrifice of their cattle (Montero-Ferreira, 2005).This beliefs of praying to their ancestor is a huge part of their religion. In today’s Zulu culture there are some that actually convert to Christianity, although most of the Zulu still believe in the traditional beliefs of their ancestors. In the Zulu religion they want everything and everyone to be in harmony with each other, having a neutral balance of good and bad and to control the conflict or chaos in their everyday lives.

The Zulu culture is a pastoralist society how so; the Zulu people tend to have large herds of animals such as cattle, cows and goats. A lot of labor is divided by the sexes, the Zulu women make pottery, and all of these pots that the Zulu make are by hand. Today, the Zulu women still make pottery. Not only do they make pottery, they also weave mats, food containers and baskets (Ngwane, 1997). The Zulu women did much of the household chorus, they prepare the food and they raise the crops. The women carry water for the gardens and tend to the family needs (Weltig, 2008). In the Zulu society cattle represent wealth, it is also known as currency (Weltig, 2008). The Zulu men maintain and keep track of the cattle, tending to the cattle feeding and taking care of the cattle.

This is very important because the cattle represent currency, so they make sure that the cattle are property taken care of. The cattle in the Zulu culture are located in the center of the homestead. The young boys milk the cattle, which is a major role for them in the culture (Weltig, 2008). The Zulu society has different roles for the women and for the men, they work together to ensure that the daily work is completed. With the different roles of the men and women, it shows that the Zulu culture takes care of the society to make sure they have a balance. In the Zulu culture they have individuals that specialize making iron tools and weapons in the society. There are others that specialize in medicine. There are three types of doctors in the Zulu culture, the herb doctor who heal people with plants and herbs. There is the witch doctor which protects people from evil spirits, and help people with omens. The third doctor is the heaven doctor, which they control the weather, and other natural events. The Zulu culture used antibiotic before it was used in modern day medicine (Gleimius & Mthimunye, 2003).

The Zulu culture is an interesting culture, examining the kinship, political organization and their beliefs and values. This culture was one of the best military forces under Shaka Zulu, who was a huge influence on the expansion of the culture. The kinship is based on extended
family, which help the society economically and socially. The Zulu culture still has strong beliefs in their traditional religion. Today, this culture still exists and they still have kings and royal ceremonies. This culture has won their independence back and they are still involved with the same traditional system from the beginning.


Ngwane, Z. (1997). Zulu: south Africa. The Rosen Publishing Group.

Weltig, M. (2008). The aftermath of the anglo-zulu war. Twenty-First Century Books.

White, C., & Bregman, O. (2012). Bringing systems thinking to life:expanding the horizons for bowen family systems . Taylor & Francis US.

Sithole, Mpilo. “Zulu.” Encyclopedia of World Cultures Supplement. 2002. Retrieved December 03, 2012 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3458100110.html

(2006). In An African Biographical Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/ghabd/shaka

Kinght, I. (1989). The zulus. Osprey Publishing.

Montero-Ferreira, A, (Jan, 2005), Reevaluating Zulu Religion: An Afrocentric Analysis Journal of Black Studies.

Sibanyoni, E, Mthimunye, E, Gleimius, N, (2003) The Zulu of Africa.

Mahoney, M, The Other Zulus: the spread of Zulu ethnicity in colonial South Africa

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