The amaZulu were originally a minor clan in what is today Northern KwaZulu-Natal. They were one of many small Nguni tribes and clans that had migrated down Africa’s east coast over thousands of years.
By the 18th century, Zulu society encompassed a number of chiefdoms north of the Tugela River. The Zulu homestead consisted of an extended family and others attached to the household through social obligations.
This social unit was largely self-sufficient, with responsibilities divided according to gender. Men were generally responsible for defending the homestead, caring for cattle, manufacturing and maintaining weapons and farm implements, and building dwellings. Women had domestic responsibilities and raised crops, usually grains, on land near the household.
Zulu chiefs demanded steadily increasing tribute or taxes from their subjects, acquired great wealth, commanded large armies, and, in many cases, subjugated neighbouring chiefdoms.
Military conquest allowed men to achieve status distinctions that had become increasingly important.
In the early 19th century, the large and powerful Mthethwa chiefdom, led by Dingiswayo, dominated much of the region north of the Tugela River.
Shaka, a Zulu warrior who had won recognition in 1810 by skilfully subduing the leader of the warring Buthelezi chiefdom, took advantage of Dingiswayo’s military defeat by the neighbouring Ndwandwe armies to begin building the Zulu empire.
As King, Shaka Zulu (r. 1817-28) defied tradition by adopting new fighting strategies, by consolidating control over his military regiments (impis), and by eliminating potential rivals for power.
Spreading warfare, exacerbated by pressures from Europeans, drove thousands of Africans north and west, and the ensuing upheaval spawned new conflicts throughout the region.
Lekker Links
KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Authority>>
A history of the Anglo-Zulu War>>
Zulu/English online dictionary>>
Wikipedia’s take on Zulu history>> Tribes, nations & languages
Xhosa; Sotho; Tswana; Pedi; Afrikaner; Khoisan
amaZulu historical photos; KwaZulu-Natal
The Zulu empire weakened after Shaka’s death in 1828 and fragmented, especially following military defeats at the hands of the Afrikaners (1839) and British (1879).
Zululand, the area north of the Tugela River, was incorporated into the British colony, Natal, in 1887.
The KwaZulu homeland was carved out of several unconnected plots of land in Natal in the 1960s. In 1976 Mangosuthu (Gatsha) Buthelezi, a member of the Zulu royal family, was named chief minister of KwaZulu, and the government declared KwaZulu a self-governing territory a year later.
The amaZulu have made up a substantial portion of South Africa’s urban work force throughout the 20th century, especially in the gold and copper mines of the Witwatersrand.
IsiZulu, the language of the amaZulu, is a Bantu language and part of the Nguni subgroup of languages. It became one of South Africa’s 11 official languages in 1994 at the end of apartheid.
There are about 11 million speakers of isiZulu, the majority (over 95%) live in South Africa where it is the most widely spoken language in the home (24% of the population).
In South Africa, 81% of the population have isiZulu as their first language in KwaZulu-Natal, 26% in Mpumalanga and 21% Gauteng.
IsiZulu and isiXhosa are mutually intelligible.
Words & phrases
Hello, to one person
Unjani? / Ninjani?
How are you (sing.)? / How are you (pl.)?
Ngiyaphila / Siyaphila
I’m okay /
We’re okay
Ngiyabonga (kakhulu)
Thanks (a lot)
Hamba kahle / Sala kahle
Go well / Stay well (used as goodbye)
Hambani kahle /
Salani kahle
Go well / Stay well, to a group of people
I don’t know

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