The Zulu today are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, numbering about 11 million people, living predominantly in their homeland of KwaZulu-Natal Province (which includes the major port city of Durban). The Zulu clan originated in the area in 1709 and rose to fame under their leader, Shaka ka Senzangakhana, or Shaka Zulu (1787 – 1828), who became the first Zulu king. While acclaimed as a military genius for his inventions (including a long throwing spear and short, stabbing spear) and strategy, he is condemned for the brutality of his reign. Under King Shaka (1816 – 1828), the Zulu increased their land holdings from 100 square miles to 11,500 acres with the mightiest African armed forces. In the late 1800s the Zulus, along with the rest of South Africa, were ruled by the British. The Zulu uprising against the British (Army) in January 1879 (the battle of Rorke’s Drift) was featured in the Hollywood movie “Zulu” in 1964; the Zulus were subjugated in July 1879.
On our tour of the Inanda Heritage Route with local guide Greg Garsons, we had the opportunity to visit a Zulu village where we were able to see their arts and crafts, watch a traditional dance, and go inside a traditional Zulu hut to understand domestic life — cooking, eating, sleeping and even taste their home-made liquor.
The Zulu dancers wore traditional Zulu costumes and the men had the traditional (Shaka) weapons for battle.
The dance we saw told the story of a traditional Zulu “boy meets girl” relationship, courtship and marriage.
After visiting the inside of one of the Zulu homes, a Zulu woman showed us how they cook over an open fire.