The Zulu people first moved south from the mountains, there were frequent struggles between the various tribes for control of land, cattle, and power. They were very good at utilizing many resources to insure their survival, from their beginnings as a true pastoral tribe to their times that go beyond this paper when they became a real empire. The rich history of the Zulu people and their pastoral beginnings of male domination can be seen as the primary obstacle facing progress on the status of women today.
Although women can be seen in all levels of urban society, most of them are not allowed to be employees, because there is still this belief that a women’s place is in the kitchen and taking care of the children and her husband’s family. Tending to her immediate family is her primary responsibility just as her husbands is providing for them. Her secondary responsibility is taking care of her birth family, a heavy load for anyone. They came from a Pastoral background as their primary mode of subsistence.
They domesticated animals and were male dominated, the men having full control the food supply. To feed these animals they traveled grazing paths to food and watering holes annually. During harsher seasons, the women and children stayed in one place while the men traveled to graze the animals. The housing they stay in was sturdy, however it was made in such a way that is was easy to build quickly. Aside from tending the flocks, most of the work outside the home was male dominated as well.
Their first king, Shaka Zulu, was the illegitimate son of a Zulu chief and a common woman. They were exiled from their tribe in shame. He would later rule them and cause them to grow in power with cunning and ruthlessness to build the first truly powerful Zulu kingdom. They were politically organized into chiefdoms ruled by the dominant lineage of the strongest clan. Chiefdoms typically included a group of related patrilineal clans. (pg. 349 Zulu Religion) Their way of life is based on respect. Respect for seniors, superiors, and for the system they grew up with.
They had clear rules for each member in their role in life. Examples of this would be that boys were trained at a young age that they were to be men, and not to follow the ways of women. They were to be warriors and learn to fight for their king. Once boys become men in this tribe they would earn scars on their faces to symbolize manhood and also a reminder to other tribes of his ranking in life. The Zulu tribe believed in the ancient world where the spirits controlled what happened on their land and in their world.
If an accident happened, if their cattle were to die, or if something bad happened, they blamed it on an angry spirit and would have to call in the Isangoma If or “medium” to help push the bad spirits away. “Furthermore, ancestors are generally held to be the custodians of the land on which their children live. They are guardians of family affairs, customs, traditions and ethical norms. Offence in these matters is ultimately an offence against the forefathers who in that capacity act as invisible police of the families and communities. (E. Ikenga-Metuh 1987; 149). The Isangoma was the most prominent person in the Zulu’s after the king. The inyanga or “herbalist” and isanus or “diviner” also had a very high standing in the tribe and usually all three were women. They were and are still very superstitious. The Sangoma or “witchdoctor” is the divine healer and she has supernatural powers that help her talk with the ancestral spirits. Religious life offerings and sacrifices were a common practice even after the Christianity took over.
The Zulu tribes hand crafted masks which were thought to possess powers, for example, warrior masks were worn with their spears and shields during dance ceremonies showing their manliness. Ceremony items were handcrafted and many were created from earth and painted earth tone colors with cuts on its fights like the warriors in the tribes. The Zulu did not convert over to Christianity without a fight. During this time of turmoil, conflict was caused as some of the tribe did convert leaving the others to view them as weaker tribes or traitors to their faith. This caused many wars between them.
After a period time everyone gave in. As the Zulu’s converted over to Christianity, they did learn to believe in one supreme god. The difference was that their ancestral spirits had more power than this god and must be revered at all times. However, when Christianity ruled the lands of the tribes their own beliefs and practices had to stop because the Frenchmen destroyed many traditions of the Zulu tribes. Sacrifices and offerings again were made for many reasons before the Christianity ruling, to bring health, wealth or happiness as well as the rain or healthy cattle.
Magic is also a belief that is common with the Zulu. It is practiced by the shaman or a well-known medicine woman. For many societies, the male role was to be the provider of the family, i. e. buying, selling, or trading of animals to feed their families. Other duties the males participated in were also the security of their family and tribes. The men would become of age like the women bore children the men bore weapons to keep away enemies and even other tribes of their own nation.
The women however go through a tremendous amount of trouble and self-sacrifice from the moment of their menstrual cycle begins. The girl becoming of a woman would be hidden from everyone and forbidden to leave her home for seven days, although she would not endure her suffering alone. The village sisters that had already experienced this transition would aid her through her this time and help her needs. From that time on she would be trained and guided on how to be a woman and how to please her husband by the older sisters again (women who are not of relation but are already sexually active. Sexual rituals are taught while maintaining her innocence of virginity until lobola or brides wealth has taken place. Women do have sex before marriage (Ukusoma) but lay on their sides with their legs crossed to unsure minimal chance of pregnancy. The English term for this sexual practice. In conclusion, Zulu men are known to other cultures as the strictest proponents of upholding their current culture and at the same time sustaining the old Zulu. This strictness can also lead to an unbending environment in regards to women breaking free from their roles of the past.
Although women have secured jobs in various levels of government and society, they are struggling with the same issues that we as Americans have already endured. A women that works outside the home will still come home to all of the responsibilities that she would have if she didn’t. Although the Zulu men push for greatness when it comes to their current nation status, no longer being considered just a tribe, they hold to their history with great zeal. Older ways are still cherished when it comes to marriage, religion as well as their magic beliefs.
Many have just altered the old ways and creating a belief system that can be carried on with the growth of the land as well as the men. References Harrison, A. & Montgomery, E. (2001, June). Life histories, reproductive histories: Rural South African women’s narratives of fertility, reproductive health and illness. Journal of Southern African Studies, 27(2), 311-328. Retrieved from http://www. jstor. org/stable/823331 Monteiro-Ferreira, A. (2003, January). Reevaluating Zulu Religion: An Afrocentric Analysis. Journal of Black Studies, 35(3), 347-363. Retrieved from http://www. jstor. rg/stable/40034764 Sanders, T. (2000, September) Rains Gone Bad, Women Gone Mad: Rethinking Gender Rituals of Rebellion and Patriarchy. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 6(3), 469-486. Retrieved from http://www. jstor. org/stable/2661086 Kapff, U. (Ed. ). (1997) Zulu – People of Heaven. Kapsdadt, South Africa: South African Holiday African Publications. Retrieved from http://www. zulu-culture. co. za/ Ikenga-Metuh, E. (1981) God And Man In African Religion. London; Geoffrey Chapman, Retrieved from http://www. waado. org/UrhoboCulture/Religion/tonukari/urhobo_community_two_worlds. htm