Photographs of the year Zulu reed dance. By Marco Longari/AFP
“There were between 7,000 and 10,000 ‘maidens’ at this Zulu reed dance – screaming, laughing, chatting, all under the watchful eyes of older women. This was a lucky shot, but I was looking for it. There are a lot of problems for albinos in Africa, so I thought if I could find an albino ‘maiden’ dancing, it would tell a positive story. These girls were lining up to get food in the early morning light, and I raced over. Normally as a photographer you get cross if your subjects pose, because it’s not natural. But this girl put up a face so proud and dignified that it was a gift to me.”
Bantu warfare in South Africa before the innovations of Shaka Zulu were more so ritualized skirmishes, raiding parties and duels loosely formed for the sake of something as simple as acquiring grazing lands, captives and cattle or resolving feuds and grudges. Women and children would watch from afar as the warriors would engage in a ritualized combat in which they’d exchange taunts and engage in indecisive duels until one side disperses; casualties were rare.
“Until the 19th century warfare in Zululand was infrequent
and largely bloodless. When disputes did arise, often over grazing rights, the combatants would meet at an appointed time and place, with the women and children turning out to watch. Individual warriors would step out and challenge rivals from the opposing forces to individual combat. Amidst much jeering and cheering, spears would be thrown, and a few casualties sustained. One side would eventually withdraw.
It seems likely that, with plenty of unclaimed pasture, a defeated clan could simply move on to find new lands. However, by the late 18th century the population was such that Zululand was becoming congested, and it was no longer possible for clans to have access to good grazing all the year round. Historians still argue the point today, but it seems likely that this competition for natural resources was the cause of the shattering violence which was to follow.” - Osprey: Elite series - The Zulus, pg. 9
Dingiswayo (c.1780 - 1817) was a Mthethwa chieftain whose adept use of diplomacy and military reforms led to the rapid rise of the Mthethwa Empire. While in exile he witnesses European bayonets usefulness in close combat, as well as their military disciplined and organized armies. His innovation on the amabutho (age grouping of regiments) made these groups into military units. After his death in 1817, the Mthethwa were supplanted by the Zulus under kaSenzangakhona (also known as Shaka Zulu).
Shaka Zulu’s reforms
Large statue representing Shaka at Camden Market in London, England.
Shaka Zulu was a lieutenant under Dingiswayo, his military reforms usually urge historians to equate him with Gaius Marius and his reforms which revolutionized the Roman army. His army is called the “Black Spartans” by some, for they train their males at a young age as well as lived and trained strictly, with many failures resulting in heavy penalties often including execution.
Zulu Kingdom, ca. 1890 (red)
Ikilwa – The throwing spear known as the ‘Assegai’ (“spear”
), used throughout Africa, was made famous by the Zulu. Under Shaka Zulu, this flimsy spear was to be used solely for long range volleys while Shaka’s Ikilwa would be used for close combat. The Ikilwa sported a longer and wider blade as well as a shorter shaft.
“He was not, however, impressed by the style of warfare then practised—he preferred to charge down upon his enemy and engage him in hand-to-hand combat. He found the light throwing spears too flimsy for this purpose, and designed his own broad-bladed spear for close combat. It had a blade about 18 in. long by 1½ in. wide, set into a stout shaft 30 in. long. With typical gallows humour, he called it iklwa—the sound it was said to make on being withdrawn from a deep body thrust.” -Osprey: Elite series - The Zulus
Ikilwa on the left
IsiHlangu (plural: iziHlangu) – The shields used by the average Zulu were somewhat small.
These were replaced with larger, stronger shields made of cowhide leather which would be about 4-5 feet long and 2 ¼ wide, able to cover from neck to the ankle. Different colored shields represented different ambuthas, white for the high-ranking warriors while black and white was for the average warrior.
Osprey Warrior - Zulu 1816
Barefoot - sandals made of ox-hide were seen by Shaka to be awkward so he has his men dispose of them. He made his men stomp on flattened thorn bushes to harden their feet as well as march over long distances on hot and rugged terrain.
The core of the Zulu military was made up of skilled warriors, they would rush the enemy with a frontal assault. They would pin the enemy in place while the “horns” attempted to flank the enemy.
Izimpondo, “The Horns”
Made up of inexperienced youths, these horns which were on both sides of the chest would wraparound the now pinned enemy, flanking and encircling them.
Umuva, “The Loins”
Made up of the seniors experienced in warfare, these men were kept in the reserves behind the chest. They were either out of visual range of the battle or at times even made to face away from the battlefield to prevent them from joining into battle too early out of impulse and excitement. They would enter into battle to take out enemies that broke free of the encirclement or to reinforce weaker points within their own army.
1 = Enemy. 2 = Horns. 3 = Chest. 4 = Loins
These formations would be coordinated by an InDuna (plural IzinDuna, “chiefs, commanders, leaders”) who would stand atop a high place giving out messages via hand signals which runners would then pass on to the army. Shaka experimented with this new formation on neighboring tribes, this period was to be known as The Crushing, ‘Mfecane’.
Possible Future Posts (if anyone is interested, reply or inbox me)
Series: Anglo-Zulu War and the battles therein. Series: Shaka Zulu
Happy Halloween y'all!
Costume #1 Daytime: Lino Rivera.
Costume #2 Night: Zuko.
Each year I commemorate Asian artists of some sorts. Last year I was Zulu and Rufio, and I am very pleased with this year.
The ancient history of the Nguni people is wrapped up in their oral history. According to legend they were a people who migrated from Egypt to the Great Lakes region of sub-equatorial Central/East Africa. The Nguni group migrated along the eastern part of southern Africa in their southward move from central Africa. They migrated southwards over many centuries, with large herds of Nguni cattle, probably entering what is now South Africa around 2,000 years ago in sporadic settlement, followed by larger waves of migration around 1400 AD.
Although there are many Bantu migrants, the Zulu language adopted many of the sounds that make up the modern language from the San and the Khoi. The San and the Khoi were the indigenous folk of South Africa, living off the abundance of the land and forming a crucial part of its history and heritage.
Zulu is now a widespread language that can be found throughout Africa. It is especially widely spoken in KwaZulu-Natal, which is also known as “Land of the Zulu”. The language can be heard inMpumalanga and Gauteng provinces as well. Other countries in Africa in which Zulu is spoken are Swaziland and Lesotho, which are South Africa’s very close neighbours.
South African English has adopted many Zulu words into its vocabulary. Some of these words include ubuntu (humanity), donga (ditch), indaba (conference) and muti (medicine). Two Zulu animal names are used in Standard English; impala (proper name) and mamba (a poisonous snake).
If you are considering learning a South African language, Zulu is an easily understood and wide-spread tongue.
The last line from one of my all time favourite poems, ‘Place of Dreams’ by South African poet and anti-Apartheid activist Mazisi Kunene (1930-2006). Read the full poem here: http://bit.ly/1tkSuBZ.
#poem #poetry #southafrica #love #africanwriters #africanpoetry #africanpoets #mazisikunene #blacklove #zulu (at dynamicafrica.tumblr.com)
My people are called the Zulu people (AmaZulu), we speak IsiZulu and live in the Zulu-land just as the English Speak english and live in England. We practice our Zulu customs as we live out our lives the Zulu way. But why the name ‘Zulu’? What does it mean? where does it come from?
The word zulu has a few meanings in our language; a) Sky. b) Heaven. c) Thunder.
The name of the Zulu is the explanation of where we believe we came from, Heaven [Translation B]. It literally means that we are the people of the Heavens.
Now we didn’t just wake up one day and decided we were from the heavens, but we get this from a few stories of our creation that have been passed down from generations to generation.
The Zulu believe that ‘Umvelinqangi’ - the Great Ancestor (or ’Unkulunkulu’ - The Almighty… in this post we shall refer to him as God for the sake of comprehension for all) resides in the heavens, beyond the sky. It is our belief that God had many children and they lived with him in the heavens. One of these children was a troublesome young boy. This boy loved very much to ‘mess’ with Gods favourite bull. One day God grew weary of this boys naughty ways, so God opened a hole in the heavens and lowered the boy down to Earth .
The boy had everything he needed to survive on earth but he was alone, he became sad. Whenever God looked down to check on him he would see how sad he was, and as any parent would God took pity on the young man and sent down a female to keep him company.
And thus a great nation was born.
This is a story that serves as an explanation (at least for me), many today do not know, or do not care about where they came from, believing stories of creation from other races, but if you go from race to race the stories differ. We too have our own.
I am not saying that this story is a definite explanation of our ‘imvelaphi’ (sorry I can’t think of an English word for that right now) but this is what our people in ancient times believed.
I believe we should start looking for answers and solutions in our own people, they are there. If we rely on other races for solutions our people shall never truly be free.
The snake dance done by Zulu Women in a theatrical show called Umoja which ventures out into Apartheid Johannesburg discussing themes of African culture conflicting with western culture, the gold mines and being black in South Africa