The Zulu People

Zulu is a nation of Nguni-speaking people in KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. A branch of the southern Bantu, the Zulu have close ethnic ties to the Swazi and Xhosa (source).

Zulu translates to sky, and the people refer to themselves as “people of the heavens (source).” Spoken history has it that Zulu was the name of the ancestor who founded the Zulu royal line in about 1670 (source). Today, there are approximately nine million Zulu, which makes this the largest ethnic group in South Africa. Zulu people are traditionally grain farmers. Many also kept herds of cattle, but the impact of European settlers has made them more depend on wage labor on farms.

Zulu are known as brave and fearless warriors, however, they’re also warm and amicable people who practice Ubuntu (which means humanness and good moral nature). The Zulu have hundreds of proverbs about how to treat others, how to behave, and on topics like pride, gratitude, manners, morality, and others (source).  

The Zulu have a number of ritual ceremonies, and custom does not dictate a formal invitation to events where food will be served. “The Zulu believe that food should be shared. Therefore, uninvited arrival at a celebration is an honor to the host,” according to every culture. The Zulu are also known for their weaving, craft making, pottery, and beadwork.

Religiously, the Zulu believe in ancestral spirits and provide offerings and sacrifices for protection, health and happiness. They also believe in a supreme being and a long life that continues after death. Getting old is seen as a blessing and elderly people are sacred and respected. Today, because of colonialism, many Zulu have converted to Christianity (source). Still, ancestral beliefs have remained strong. 

May these strong, fearless people thrive. Ubuntu.

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