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10 Facts about the Zulu People of South Africa

  • One of South Africa’s Oldest Clans
  • The Zulu people were originally a clan in what is now known as Northern KsaZulu-Natal. They were once extremely dominant over the region, and are still amongst South Africa’s most prominent ethnic groups.
  • The language has a fascinating translation
  • Zulu is a fascinating language, but the word ‘Zulu’ translates, rather interestingly, to mean either ‘heaven’ or ‘weather’ in the Nguni languages. This shows how language develops si over time to take on new significance when translated by other people.
  • A powerful Kingdom
  • The oral history of the Zulus lists eight kings, including the current king, known as Zwelithini Goodwill. The Zulu people became a powerful state in 1818, led by a military leader known as Shaka, who was noted for his significant military prowess and ability to both integrate and mobilize the smaller tribes of the Zulu people As King of the Zulus, Shaka became immensely significant in building they Zulu tribe into an impressive and imposing empire.
  • British conflict
  • The Zulus came into conflict with the British in 1878, after rejecting an ultimatum to disband their army and surrender control to the British army. This ultimately led to the Battle at Rorke’s Drift at which Zulu forces were significantly depleted, and which saw the Zulu defeated in the later Battle of Ulundi the following year.
  • Division and adaptation
  • The Zulu people were divided into what were known as 13 separate ‘kinglets’, or sub-kingdoms — which fought against one another for several years following their defeat. Zululand was eventually fully absorbed into the British colony of Natal.
  • A new homeland
  • With the advance of apartheid, KwaZulu was created for Zulu people. The area was made up of many disparate and disconnected ii landmasses in what is now modern-day KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Traditional clothing
  • Zulu people wear a wide variety of clothing, both for traditional ceremonial use and for cultural celebrations. For everyday use, modern and westernized clothing is worn, and women dress differently to
  • indicate their marital status.
  • Religious sentiments
  • Religion is a major part of Zulu life. Most Zulu people regard themselves as Christians, predominantly belonging to the African Initiated Churches alongside European branches such as the Dutch Reformed, Anglican and Catholic churches. However, other Zulu people retain traditional beliefs which pre-date their conversion to Christianity and instead favour the worship of ancestors.
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  • Variety of settlements
  • Zulu settlements are both rural and urban, with most people living in multi-generational households. Most structures are circular homes built from mud or concrete blocks, with a kitchen at the very centre of the house. Urban Zulu people live predominantly in townships from th 1950s and 60s, originally designed t enforce racial segregation. Since apartheid ended in the 1990s, some of these urbanized areas have become more diverse.
  • Zulu history is unclear
  • The particulars of Zulu history are often unclear, as so much of their history is dedicated to oral historians rather than written down. However, this is a strong and world-famous people, who have retained a distinctive character despite many years of change surrounding them

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