The Birth of the Zulu People

The word Zulu means ‘sky’ and was apparently first heard in the 1620s, although the birth of the Zulu people began, according to oral tradition, when Malandela and Nozinja gave the name of Zulu to their son.  They lived in an area which later became known as Zululand (or in the Zulu language, KwaZulu). Today KwaZulu-Natal is one of the nine provinces of South Africa.

The Story of Zulu

The story tells of Zulu growing up to become his mother’s favourite son.  His eldest brother, Qwabe, became jealous of Zulu.  To protect her son, Nozinja called on the help of a headman (Induna) called Mpungose.  They helped Zulu to lead the clan and form his own. His brother established a clan of his own too, which he called Qwabe.  Through the generations the bloodline that links these two clans has weakened and today it is acceptable to intermarry between these two groups of people.

The Zulu People

We know very little about Zulu, but in the sixth dynasty of his clan, in the late 1700s, Nandi, the third wife of Chief Senzangakona gave birth to the most well-known Zulu chief, Shaka Zulu. Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, the current reigning King of the Zulu nation, is a direct descendent of Shaka and still plays an important traditional role in the lives of approximately 11 million Zulu people in South Africa today. His role of the King in the constitution of South Africa under the Traditional Leadership Clause as the custodian of the Zulu tradition.

KwaZulu-Natal is the spiritual heartland of the Zulu nation. Zulu is spoken across South Africa. In Gauteng, which is the most populous provincial area and financial centre of the country, it is a dominant language, as well as in small towns across the Mpumalanga region.

** The largest indigenous linguistic group of people in southern Africa is the Nguni. This group includes the Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi and Ndebele people.  Independent clans within this group grew like enlarged families and the right to take on the position of chief flows through the original male line.  This means that the chief ascends to the position through a clearly defined traditional pattern. The chief will have a main wife. Her first born will be next in line to the throne. Nkosikazi is the name of this tradition. Today many Zulus still practise polygamy and Nkosikazi. But intermarriage in a clan is never permitted as members of the clan are considered brothers and sisters**


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You might find the Creation of the Kuba People interesting too.

2 thoughts on “The Birth of the Zulu People

  1. I love this. The story of Shaka Zulu was something I read up on a lot as a child. Although quite a brutal tribe their pride and beauty are what made them so distinct.

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