Zulu Facts

Zulu warrior
Zulu Warrior


Below we will cover several interesting facts about the Zulu people who are the largest ethnic group in South Africa. There are approximately ten million Zulus in Africa most of who live in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. A much smaller population live in Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. This tribe played an important part in the history of Africa.

Zulu History Facts

Over thousands of years the Zulu's ancestors, the Nguni people, migrated down the east coast of Africa as part of the Bantu migrations. They eventually reached South Africa around the ninth century AD, where a small Zulu clan formed. In the early 1800's the famous Zulu warrior and king Shaka kaSenzangakhona united the Zulu tribes into a powerful kingdom. He is known for his military genius which was matched with his brutality. In 1879 the Anglo-Zulu War began as a result of the then Zulu king Cetshwayo refusing the British demand that he accept British authority and disband his army. The Zulus inflicted an early devastating defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana. This was the worst defeat the British would ever experience against any African enemy. The British eventually won the war. The final confrontation was the Battle of Ulundi on July 4, 1879. Soon after the defeat king Cetshwayo was captured and exiled to London. At this time the British divided the Zulu kingdom into thirteen sub-kingdoms. The sub-kingdoms fought among each other. Eventually Cetshwayo was release by the British and reinstate as Zulu king. However, he was unsuccessful at reuniting his kingdom and was eventually forced to escape from Zululand. He died in 1884 from what might have been a poisoning.

Facts about the Zulu Language

The Zulu peoples language is called isiZulu. IsiZulu is part of the Nguni subgroup of the Bantu language. It is South Africa’s most widely spoken language. Many Zulus also speak several of South Africa’s eleven other official languages including English, Afrikaans, Portuguese, Shangaan, and Sesotho.

Zulu Clothing Facts

The Zulu people of Africa wear different types of clothing for different occasions. They may wear traditional tribal clothing for cultural events or ceremonies but otherwise wear westernized clothing for everyday use.

The type of clothing a women wears is dictated by her marital status. A single unengaged women will wear a short skirt usually made of grass and will also wear beautiful beadwork. An engaged women will let it be know that she is engaged by covering her bosom with a decorative cloth. Married Zulu women wear clothing that covers their body completely.

Facts about Zulu Religion

Although most Zulu people are Christian many still practice their traditional ancestor worship in conjunction with their Christian religion. Ancestor worship involves the belief that ancestor spirits exist and could effect the lives of people, for better or for worse. Two important people in a Zulu community, who help communicate and influence the spirits, are the diviner and the herbalist. The diviner communicates with the ancestor spirits and the herbalist prepares a mixture called muthi which can be eaten to help influence the ancestors. There are two basic forms of muthi: white and black. The white is accepted by society and is consumed for positi purposes such as healing. Black muthi is used for negative purposes such as causing others to become sick. Those who use black muthi are considered witches in Zulu society.