Wednesday, May 28, 2008

People of Heaven

The translation of "Zulu" is "heaven", and KwaZulu means "Place of Heaven" (as in our province, KwaZulu-Natal). Accordingly, the amaZulu are the "People of Heaven".

This photo features traditional Zulu "beehive" huts, customarily built to encircle the central cattle kraal. Cattle have always represented wealth to the Zulu (and other ethnic groups), so these prized animals feature centre-stage. Customarily, acacia-thorn-tree branches are used to construct palisades, which encompass the circle of huts as well as the inner cattle kraal.

A chief in full regalia (right) - in this case, chief Thomas Fakude (from KwaBekhitunga/Stewart's Farm). Zulu men, in general, wear front and rear aprons made from calf skin, sometimes also featuring strips of wild animal hides, proudly displaying which animals they have hunted. The knobkierie (= 'knob"-stick) is a traditional weapon whilst a shield, made from an untanned cattle hide, is considered an essential item. The wearing of a leopard skin (e.g. across the shoulders) is usually reserved for chiefs or men of high rank, whilst all married men wear headbands.

Instead of the traditional grain pit, a small storage hut on poles also serves to e.g. stow maize cobs and pumpkins.

Did you know that originally, grain pits were dug into the ground of a Zulu cattle kraal? Sometimes, these were also used as burial pits for chiefs, e.g. the great king Shaka's corpse was wrapped in an ox-hide and then interred in the grain pit of the royal cattle kraal at kwaBulawayo (= "the place of the persecuted man").

The two Zulu women (right) are busy crushing maize-pips in the traditional way. Married Zulu women cover most of their bodies by wearing cloak-like covers over a thick skirt made from sewn-together strips of cow or goat hide. In the past, the traditional headdresses married Zulu women wear were fashioned from woven grass and (permanently) plaited into a ring of hair around the skull. These days, most traditional hats are removable. Colourful bead-work adorns most pieces of clothing.

This Zulu lady (left) demonstrates the traditional and age-old practice of using grinding stones. She grinds the crushed maize-pips to flour. The flour, mixed with water and boiled, becomes maize porridge - still the staple food in most parts of the African continent south of the Sahara desert.

Trivia: once freely available, maize replaced sorghum - used to make porridge or brew traditional beer.

Zulu implements
- in a woven basket (right) are 2 calabash, used as drinking vessels or to scoop traditionally brewed beer from the magnificently crafted and "twice-fired" black clay pot - featuring prominently on the photo.

In front of an assortment of containers made from grass, reed, ilala-palm leaves, bark and calabash, traditional weapons are on display (left) - other than a knobkierie, two spears feature in this photo: one spear is used for throwing (= isiPhapha) and the other is a stabbing spear (= iXhwa = assegaai = invented by king Shaka).

Traditionally, Zulu maidens only wear tiny skirts made from grass or soft hide sometimes adorned with beads. The colourful array of beaded skirts and necklaces (right) is worn to aesthetically please foreign visitors to a traditional village.

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