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Zulu village life – Articles – South African Tourism

Zulu village life

Homesteads of a proud people
Traditional dress at a Zulu cultural village. © South African Tourism
Each member of the family has a place within a traditional Zulu village setup in KwaZulu-Natal. Beehive-shaped huts are built around the cattle kraal, the family has its sacred spot for worship and ceremony, visitors are greeted by gatekeepers, girls assist their mothers and boys herd the livestock.

Did you know?

A newly wed Zulu woman is not considered a part of her family, but of her husband's.

Zulu villages, found all through the KwaZulu-Natal province, are an integral part of this fiercely proud people's traditional way of life.

The Zulu, meaning ‘people of the heavens', were once a disparate group of clans and chieftainships that were melded into a mighty, feared kingdom by Shaka in the early 19th century.

Because of the exploits of King Shaka, the Zulu are arguably the best known of Africa's tribes. Their language, tending to be idiomatic and proverbial in nature, is the most widely spoken in South Africa.

In South African Zulu villages you see how the Zulu hold their culture in high esteem, observing many of their old traditions, rituals and ceremonies. The typical nuclear family (or umndeni) still exists in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

The umndeni typically includes all people staying in a Zulu village - be they direct family members or 'extended family'. Everyone will stay in the homestead, which is often made up of circular, fenced huts with thatched roofs. Among the huts are sleeping quarters, with one for cooking and another for children.

Traditional clothing still worn in Zulu villages is often intricate, carrying meaning with each outfit. Men, women and children wear beads as accessories. Men wear the amabeshu - an apron made of goat or cattle skin, but worn at the back. In addition, men decorate their heads with furs and feather, while also wearing goatskin bands on their arms and legs.

Women in the Zulu villages of South Africa wear the isidwaba, a traditional Zulu skirt of goat or cattle skin. If a woman is not married, she will cover her upper body with a string of beads.

Ornate traditional wear usually comes out during celebrations, where much singing and dancing will take place. The men dress as warriors, stomping their feet to the sound of drums and unified voices while the women ululate.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Shakaland
Tel: +27 (0)35 460 0912
Email: res@shakaland.com

How to get here

To experience a Zulu village it is recommended you visit one of the cultural villages in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The best known is Shakaland, which you can drive to on the R66 from Eshowe to Melmoth in KwaZulu-Natal.

Around the area

There are many other aspects to Zulu culture and history in the area, especially around the battlefields of the Anglo-Zulu War.

Tours to do

A battlefields tour in KwaZulu-Natal.

Brochures and maps are available so you can drive from village to village in the province.

What will it cost

Costs vary from village to village so be sure to check before hand.

Length of stay

Half a day is ideal for Shakaland, but it is recommended you stay longer to explore the area in depth.

What to pack

Summers are very hot and humid so dress lightly and don't forget the hat and sunscreen.

Where to stay

Shakaland offers overnight accommodation. There are also many luxury game lodges and guesthouses in the area.