Each member of the family has a place within a traditional Zulu village setup in KwaZulu-Natal. Beehive-shaped huts are built around the cattle kraal, the family has its sacred spot for worship and ceremony, visitors are greeted by gatekeepers, girls assist their mothers and boys herd the livestock.
Zulu villages, found all through the KwaZulu-Natal province, are an integral part of this fiercely proud people’s traditional way of life.
The Zulu, meaning ‘people of the heavens’, were once a disparate group of clans and chieftainships that were melded into a mighty, feared kingdom by Shaka in the early 19th century.
Because of the exploits of King Shaka, the Zulu are arguably the best known of Africa’s tribes. Their language, tending to be idiomatic and proverbial in nature, is the most widely spoken in South Africa.
In South African Zulu villages you see how the Zulu hold their culture in high esteem, observing many of their old traditions, rituals and ceremonies. The typical nuclear family (or umndeni) still exists in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
The umndeni typically includes all people staying in a Zulu village – be they direct family members or ‘extended family’. Everyone will stay in the homestead, which is often made up of circular, fenced huts with thatched roofs. Among the huts are sleeping quarters, with one for cooking and another for children.
Traditional clothing still worn in Zulu villages is often intricate, carrying meaning with each outfit. Men, women and children wear beads as accessories. Men wear the amabeshu – an apron made of goat or cattle skin, but worn at the back. In addition, men decorate their heads with furs and feather, while also wearing goatskin bands on their arms and legs.
Women in the Zulu villages of South Africa wear the isidwaba, a traditional Zulu skirt of goat or cattle skin. If a woman is not married, she will cover her upper body with a string of beads.
Ornate traditional wear usually comes out during celebrations, where much singing and dancing will take place. The men dress as warriors, stomping their feet to the sound of drums and unified voices while the women ululate.