Zulu Kids

Today I came across this picture I took at one of the local schools when I visited there with Thanda Safari guests.

These youngsters, as most Zulu children and also most adults, love to pose for a camera!

I am working on a series of blogs about the Zulu community, Zulu culture and Zulu people.  Stay tuned …

Enjoy your week!

Heritage Day


Today is South Africa’s Heritage Day.

My view on heritage: Learn from the past and help the children to build a better future!

The two weddings!


As most of you know I live in the heart of Zululand, a region reigned by the hereditary King of the Zulu people.

Most Zulus today are members of Christian churches, but they are also still firmly rooted in traditions involving the spirits of their ancestors. As a result many Zulus will have two wedding ceremonies in one day, when they want to tie the knot for life. I was invited by one of my Zulu colleagues to capture his wedding. This is the resulting picture report.

The day started with the Christian wedding ceremony in the garden of a local hotel with everyone in modern dress. It was followed by a reception in the community hall. The traditional wedding ceremony commenced in the early afternoon at the groom’s homestead.

The process – from the arrival of the bride’s family in the early morning hours, their traditional ‘camping’ under a tree in the vicinity, the slaughter of a few cows to feed the large wedding party, the preparation of the groom’s family including a visit to the ancestral hut on the property, the approach of the bridal party to the groom’s homestead, the dancing and singing, the interview of the bride by the wedding official and the delivery of the wedding gifts to the grooms’ family – was following a strict protocol with the main aim to please the ancestors.

As normal in Zulu tradition love and emotion between women and men are not displayed publicly, so a handshake between Nothando – the bride – and Muzikayise – the groom – was the equivalent of the wedding kiss after the couple was officially married.

I learned a lot more about the Zulus and their traditions that day, but the main lesson was that they love to sing and dance, to have fun and to please their ancestors!

Enjoy the pictures!

A brotherly fight!

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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).

Fourteen for the Villa! (7)

I have selected fourteen images which are now hung in two of the suites at Thanda’s Villa iZulu. These are some of my favorite images and I have prepared them in sepia to match the existing old-fashioned frames. Over the next few days I would like to share these images with you.

Here is number seven: A Zulu Lady

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PS: If you stay at Thanda’s Villa iZulu in the suites number 2 or 3 you can view them in the original print.

Fourteen for the Villa! (3)

I have selected fourteen images to be hung in two of the suites at Thanda’s Villa iZulu. These are some of my favorite images and I have prepared them in sepia to match the existing old-fashioned frames. Over the next few days I would like to share these images with you.

Here is number three: Zulu Dancers!

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PS: If you stay at Thanda’s Villa iZulu in the suites number 2 or 3 you can view them in the original print.

Modern Zulu – Traditional Zulu – more images …

Moving ...

I promised some more images from my recent photo shoot [ttp://sperka.info/2014/11/29/modern-zulu-traditional-zulu].

Here they are (these versions are in sepia, which I think works very well for such images).

Modern Zulu – Traditional Zulu

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Today I had the opportunity to do a rather special photo shoot. A group of young Zulu dancers from one of the local communities is performing regularly for the Thanda guests. This afternoon I got the chance to take some pictures of the group in daylight, as they normally only perform in the evenings around a camp fire (with not very good light for photography).

But I was not only taking pictures of them dancing in their traditional attire, but I also took portraits and group shots in their modern day-to-day outfits. Nowadays, as in many other cultures, traditional Zulu dress is only used on special occasions and festivities.

I really like these two portraits of this young dancer, one as a modern Zulu and one in traditional attire. Stay tuned for more images from this photo shoot …

Back at the First Saturday Nashville Art Crawl


ZULULAND – Wildlife and People in the African South

At the June Nashville First Saturday Art Crawl I will exhibit a few of my recent images, taken around my new home in the Heart of Zululand. Unusally for me, I will also show People images besides Wildlife pictures :-). Come and have a look.

The event at the Nashville Arcade is open to the public. I am looking forward to seeing many of you at the Art Crawl!

When: Saturday – June 7, 2014 – 6:00-9:00pm
Where: Ultraviolet Gallery @ Nashville Arcade, Downtown Nashville

Thanks to Amiee Stubbs, who invited me to her UltraViolet Gallery, I am able to exhibit again in Nashville. Amiee is the Official Photographer and Photography Teacher for the Nashville Zoo and Photojournalist for Animal Rescue Corps. She is a very accomplished professional photographer with a wide portfolio (www.amieestubbs.com). But her passion is definitely animal photography!

PS: I will also give a few presentations about Photography, Wildlife and Conservation – For more information go to https://sperka.info/2014/05/15/two-years-in-the-wild-and-keepers-of-the-wild-presentations-in-tennessee/

Zulu People and Zulu Culture (2)

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A visit to a Zulu homestead in the rural areas of Zululand can give a great insight into the life of modern Zulu people living within their traditions.

The picture above was taken during such a visit. Bheki Ngubane, one of Thanda’s experienced Zulu trackers, interprets the process of making traditional Zulu beer.

The Thanda guest in the picture is actually my brother Stefan, who visited me from Germany for five days 🙂

20131113 - CS2_4864 - E - THANDAOne of the ladies at the homestead explains to Stefan the use of the mill to grind the maize.

20131113 - CS2_4902 - E - THANDAOne of sons of the house insisted on demonstrating the drinking of traditional Zulu beer – and enjoyed it 🙂

20131113 - CS2_4958 - E - THANDAAnd this young family member was very keen on a picture with Stefan.

This is the second blog in a series ZULU PEOPLE AND ZULU CULTURE:

Previous blog message on this subject: https://sperka.info/2013/11/08/zulu-people-and-zulu-culture-1/

Thanda is located in the heart of Zululand. With this location comes responsibility to the Zulu People and the Zulu Culture, which have existed in this area for centuries. Most of the personnel at Thanda come from the surrounding local communities and Thanda has close relationships with the community leaders and the people. Both sides benefit greatly from these good relationships! For the interested guests – from all over the world – Thanda is not only a superb place to experience the African bush but also an ideal base to explore Zulu culture and customs. Visits to a traditional Zulu homesteads and to local schools can enhance the appreciation for the rural life in South Africa. A visit to a Sangoma (Zulu Spiritual Adviser) can give a great insight into the Zulu believes connecting God, Nature and the Ancestors.

If you would like to incorporate an experience of “Zulu People and Zulu Culture” into your Thanda visit contact reservations@thanda.co.za