When we were in Durban, South Africa, the 2 Barbara’s went to a different

recreated Zulu village, ShakaLand. Here is their story.

The Zulu villages are known as the Zulu Kraal. Historically the Zulu Kraal was a circular settlement around several beehive shaped grass huts that were grouped about a stockade in which the cattle were corralled at night. Within the stockade there was a separate partition for the calves so the bulls in the herds would not physically hurt them.

The kraal is round in shape and surrounded by a fence made of wooden poles and woven reeds with a single opening.  The opening is opposite the Grandmother’s house, which is the largest structure in the village and used for family and public gatherings. Their beehive huts are a framework of bent saplings covered with plaited grass or rushes. A “hide” screen of branches and mud affords some privacy and also serves as a windshield to keep blowing rain and dirt out.

The men’s living quarters, including those of the chief and all of his sons, are on the right hand side of the village so that, if the village is attacked, each man can hold his shield in his left arm to protect himself and wield his short spear with his right hand.  All men must fight right-handed and, in Shaka Zulu’s time, he would cut off fingers on the left hand to force a man to use his right hand in fighting.

The young women after maturity live communally on the right-hand side of the village.  Zulu men can have multiple wives and each wife has her own hut alternatively arranged in order of their marriages around the perimeter of the village. To the right of the Grandmother’s house is a small hut for the chief to entertain “a” wife, one at a time.





Cattle are a sign of wealth and are used for food and hides for clothing, shields, and the floor of their living quarters. The cattle are prized possessions to the Zulu  and before a young man may marry he must be able to “pay” for his wife-to-be and present her father with 11 to 22 cows.

The Zulu men are known are as warriors and fierce fighters especially in defending their land and cattle. In Zulu society, social gatherings almost always involve dancing.  Most Zulu native dances require a high degree of physical fitness and a lack of inhibition.



Zulu weapons traditionally were spears and later short spears were used plus the traditional leather shields.  Today most men carry wooden staffs and clubs to prevent injuries and death if tempers flare at political meetings and rallies, which they often do.


Villages are not necessarily located near water and water may have to be carried daily long distances from the source back to the village and is carried by the women in pottery jogs balanced on the top of their heads. The women wore a straw ring on the top of their heads to protect it while carrying the heavy water jugs.  Unmarried women wore hats without a crown and, after a woman was married, the crown would be added to the hat.  She never took her hat off and even slept with her neck supported by a wooden “stool.”



Zulu people are renowned as weavers and for making colorful beadwork. Baskets and mats are woven from palm fronds and grasses and are very decorative and popular.  Most baskets display the traditional diamond or triangle shape, symbols representing female and male elements. Shiny glass beads introduced by the early 19th century traders traded a new custom.  Now, artistic beadwork forms an important part of Zulu culture.  Every pattern and color has symbolic significance.







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