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This article is about the African ethnic group. For other meanings, see Zulu (disambiguation).
Zulu Warriors, late 19th century (with some Europeans in the background)
Total population: 5 million (est.)
Significant populations in: KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa: 5 million (est.)
Language isiZulu; many also speak English or Afrikaans.
Religion Christian, Animist
Related ethnic groups


The Zulu are an African ethnic group of about 5 million people who live mainly in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. This makes them the most numerous ethnic group in the country. Their language derives from Bantu. Under their king, Shaka, they expanded their kingdom in the early 1800s, from a minor clan of 1500 people to a great nation between the Tugela River and the Pongola River , through conquest and assimilation. They were partly responsible for the Mfecane - the catastrophic forced migration of many clans around Zululand. Famous for their conflicts with Boer settlers and the British army in the 1800s (eg. the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879 where Zulus defeated British troops at Isandlwana on January 22.)

The modern Zulu population is fairly evenly divided into urban and rural groups:

Rural Zulu people live in villages, often without electricity and running water, in houses constructed from a mixture of mud brick and more modern, but cheap, materials. The Zulu aristocracy still tends to play a major role in the leadership of rural Zulu people. Local amaKhosi (literally lords, though "chiefs" is a more common translation) tend to hold a certain amount of sway over the people in their area. Some rural Zulu people make a living selling basketry and beadwork to tourists and city dwellers. Some are also subsistence farmers, although a more prominent trend is for one member of a family to get a job in a nearby city, from the income of which they support the rest of the family.

Poorer urban Zulu people live in Townships, which came about as a result of apartheid. However, a large number of Zulu people are now members of the middle class, living in suburban houses, and having fairly common middle class first world jobs. A number of Zulu people are prominent business men and women, and a number are parliamentarians.

The singing styles of the Zulu people and their Nguni heritage are worthy of special mention. As in much of Africa, music is highly considered, enabling the communication of emotions and situations which could not be made by talking. Zulu music incorporates rhythm, melody and harmony — the latter is usually dominant and known as "isigubudu " (which can be translated as converging horns on a beast, with tips touching the animal, a spiralling inward that reflects inner feelings).

Zulu music has also been carried worldwide, often by white musicians using Zulu backing singers, or performing songs by Zulu composers. Examples of the former are Paul Simon and South African Johnny Clegg. Examples of the latter are the song "Wimoweh" and several tunes on the first album by Bow Wow Wow. In the case of both "Wimoweh" and Bow Wow Wow, the original Zulu musicians went unidentified and uncompensated by the white musicians.

Their language is isiZulu.

In the Zulu language, Zulu means "heaven" or "sky".

See also

External links

  • Mfecane - Zulu expansion and empire-building in KwaZulu-Natal , on a site that is mainly about South African coins, but has some decent historical essays.

Last updated: 02-07-2005 08:36:49
Last updated: 02-28-2005 10:54:03