As many other peoples – who have existed for a long time – the Zulu people have a lot of customs and traditions.
I am now living for over three years in Zululand and I have tried to learn about the Zulus as much as possible. Even if I have not improved my Zulu language skills by much (isiZulu is quite difficult to learn and I am a bit on the lazy side when it comes to learning languages) I was able to observe quite a lot. Bheki Ngubane, my Zulu tracker and friend, has taught me much about his people and I was invited on some special days to the local communities.
This is a picture of Bheki (on the right) having a friendly ‘demonstration’ fight with his brother Mbongeni. When the Zulus have an occasion to celebrate – for example at a wedding – the men like to test their strength in such fights. A specially appointed Induna yenzinsizwa (fight leader) makes sure that these confrontations do not get out of hand. In this picture both brothers wear traditional men’s cloths, made from animal skins, mainly from cows and goats. And do not worry; the leopard skins around their necks are artificially made. Nowadays such traditional attire is mostly worn on special occasions and also when going to church services (similar to ‘Kilts in Scotland’ and ‘Lederhosen in Bavaria’).
Behki is a typical example of a Zulu man, living in a rural area. He wears modern cloth, works on Thanda as a tracker, drives a small car, uses cell phone technology to communicate with his family and friends – mostly by texting – and enjoys watching TV at his room at base camp.
But he is also the husband to two wives, has nine children and lives with his family on a large plot of land on Lake St.Lucia. At his home he has no access to electricity or to running water. His first wife and some her older children spend part of their days collecting water for a central point in the community and collecting firewood from the forest. Bheki comes from a very traditional background. His father had eight wives, 40 daughters and 25 sons. As a married man – with more than one wife – Bheki is a much respected man in his local community. It helps that the local Induna yesizwe (equivalent to a major) is his uncle and the Inkhosi (equivalent to a chief or governor) of his community is his nephew :-).
Quite a few of my blog followers have expressed interest in these subjects, so over the next couple month I will write a few more blogs about Zulu customs and traditions, and always with pictures 🙂
Please let me know if you have any questions or interest in specific topics and I will try to cover them. Siyabonga (Thank you in isiZulu).