The historic Zulu people
form the largest South African ethnic group of around 10
million people. While modern times find half of the Zulu
population living in urban cities, many still live in rural
settings and practice the ancient traditions and customs of
The Zulu are
believed to be a people, descended from a great chief in the
Congo area, who migrated to the south and picked up some
San traditions along the way.
In 1816, they formed a powerful state under the rule of Shaka
Zulu, a Zulu hero still celebrated today in on Heritage Day.
Shaka Zulu was a great leader and a warrior and many of the
customs and traditions from his time remain cornerstones of
Zulu culture today.
Best known aspects of Zulu culture include
their basket weaving and bead work. The women traditionally
wear this elaborate beading while men wear animal-hide
loincloths tied around their waist. Women do many of the
domestic chores in the rural areas, which can include
gathering firewood and water. Although the population is large
and many Zulu believe in different forms of Christianity,
there is a traditional, common belief in ancestor spirits who
have the power to intervene in peoples lives, whether for good
or for ill. Through these beliefs, diviners and herbalists
play an important role in the daily lives of the Zulu.
There have been times in Zulu history of
great war and discrimination. In the late 1870s, the Zulu went
to war with the British and, although they appeared to have
the upper hand in the beginning, lost the war at the Battle of
Ulundi. Apartheid marked another difficult time for the Zulu.
In 1970, the Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act forced them to
become citizens of KwaZulu, effectively nullifying their South
African citizenship. Today, they have equal rights with other
South African citizens and remain the largest ethnic group in
the country while playing an important role in South African
Interact with the Zulu people on our South Africa Bush and Beach Safari
and the Earth Organization Eco Safari Adventure.