Who Are The Zulu People?

The Zulu people are a powerful ethnic group from South Africa. They speak isiZulu language, in fact, they are the largest tribe in South Africa with about 10 million people who reside in KwaZulu – Natal province. The Zulus form the Northern and Central Nguni.

One of the fascinating facts about the Zulu people is their culture. They are the most famous warriors in South Africa and one of the oldest clans as well. The Zulu also have their own public holiday to celebrate their warrior, Shaka Zulu.

Shaka Zulu Statue In Camden Market
Shaka Zulu Statue In Camden Market

The Zulu people are also well known for their unique skills in weaving, making beads, pottery, and craft making. You can get an amazing experience of these cultural practices in the rural areas.

Where Do The Zulu People Live?

The ancestors of Zulu were among the Bantu-speaking communities who migrated from the east coast of Africa to South Africa. Shaka Zulu, the Zulu warrior united the Zulus into one kingdom during the 19th Century.

Majority of the Zulu people live in the province of KwaZulu Natal, in South Africa. Some of the Zulu are distributed in the countries of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. The name Zulu means “heaven”.

What Nationality Are The Zulu People?

The Zulu people have close ties with the Xhosa (the Southern Nguni) and Swazi from Swaziland both culturally and linguistically. The Zulu are mainly South Africans.

The Zulu people are famous for their strong fighting skills, which brought their name to the international limelight during the time of Shaka Zulu the great warrior.

Zulu Dance
Zulu Dance

How Many Zulu People Are There?

95% of the Zulu people live in South Africa. This is approximately 10 to 11 million people which is a bigger percentage of the Zulu community compared to the Zulu that are distributed in neighboring Zambia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe countries.

IsZulu is one of the widely spoken languages in South Africa. Other languages like Afrikaans, English and Portuguese are also spoken in South Africa due to the influence of the Europeans during colonialism.

What Is Unique About The Zulu People?


The Zulu people have a unique way of dressing. The men are clothed in leopard skin attires in the lower part of the body. It’s only men who are allowed to wear leopard skin attires since the leopard is regarded as a sign of royalty. Married men also wear headbands.

Short skirts made from grass decorated with beads are the clothes for young unmarried women of the Zulu. The young women also cut their hair. Married women keep their hair long and cover their entire bodies. They make their skirts from thick cowhide and soften them with animal fat and charcoal. The women wear circular-shaped hats that are made from grass and cotton.

Zulu Woman In Attire
Zulu Woman In Attire

These traditional attires are worn during traditional ceremonies only.

Zulu Way Of Life

The Zulus love eating meat and dairy. They cook meat on open fires and eat it with traditional vegetables (amadumbe). They also love both fermented and unfermented porridge that is prepared from sorghum and maize. 

The sorghum and maize is also used to prepare fermented beer popularly called utywala and unfermented beer popularly known as isibhede. They also take fermented milk that is usually preserved in a gourd that is rarely cleaned.

The Zulus celebrate rites of passage faithfully. These ceremonies include, birth, puberty, marriage and, death. The Zulu people celebrate these stages uniquely and beautifully. They sacrifice animals to appease their ancestors during these celebrations.

Cultural and Social life 

The Zulu people are pastoralists and they also do farming activities. Both women and men in different age groups are responsible for the smooth running of their homes through the different roles that are distributed among themselves.

The women are regarded as weak vessels in the Zulu community. The roles of the Zulu women are taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning, collecting firewood, brewing beer, cultivating land and harvesting. 

The women and girls also weave mats, baskets, and decorated calabashes. Beading activities are usually done by older women because of the special message that different beads communicate.

Once the man of the house enters the house, the woman gets water for the husband to wash his hands and rinse his mouth. She then serves him food, kneeling and leaves him to continue eating as she serves the rest of the family. Young men, on the other hand, take care of their father’s herd. The older men attend to social activities like seceding new laws and directives. Family decision-making is done by men and older sons of the family. The women are rarely consulted.

It’s also the duty of the men to build their circular-shaped hats and provide security for the family while entertaining visitors. They also do pottery and sculpting.

Famous Zulu People

The Zulu celebrate Shaka Day in the month of  September which is done around Shaka Zulu’s tombstone. Shaka was a famous warrior who was the founder of the Zulu kingdom. During this celebration, the Zulu wear the traditional attire and sing songs and poems praising all the Zulu kings, starting with Shaka to the current king. The Zulu are famous for their high regard for other people. They are very hospitable. Being humane is one of their beliefs. In fact, they have proverbs that point to relationships with other people. Firm belief in ancestral spirits is also one of the fascinating facts about the Zulu people. These spirits are called ‘amadlozi’ and abaphansi which are spirits of the dead. 

The Zulu people also believe in a god whom they believe to be a higher being called Umvelinqangi which means “one who came first”. They believe that there is a relationship between the ancestral spirits and UMveliqangi. The Zulu have high regard for their elders. One of their practices is that one should not address an elder by their name instead, address them as mama for mother and baba for father. The Zulu people are very friendly. You can visit them to have an experience of tradition and their amazing craftwork and embroidery.

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