Hurling or dart-throwing at bulbs

When describing hurling, Mr. E. A. Mkhize said that hurling is throwing on arrow with an aim of nailing a particular target. According to Nyembezi and Nxumalo (1983:16) raphionaeme purpurea is a shrub which has edible swelling buds. Its bulbous roots are used by boys as targets when playing, and practice to hurl at game. Mr. E. A. Mkhize says the targets are made up of roots of a tree. The roots are dug up, chipped off until round in shape so that it will be suitable as a rolling target during the game.


1 The person consulted
2 Who plays this game?
3 What is used to play the game?
4 Where is it played?
5 When is it played?
6 How is it played?
7 Custom associated with this game
8 Source

The person consulted
The researcher spoke to Mr. E. A. Mkhize, a 72 year-old born at uMsinga but now residing at uMlazi B section. He explained how the game is played.

Who plays this game?
This game is played by boys who are not too young, from 6 years of age upwards.

What is used to play the game?
This game is played using bulbous roots and arrows. The roots are dug by boys, chipped off nicely until round-shaped so that it can roll down. A tree that grows by the river with bulbous roots is chosen because it is supple thus easily pierced when hurled at. Due to a decrease of such trees in other rural areas, boys hurl at half-rotten pumpkins or pig melons. Half-rotten pumpkins result from being disturbed during development thus do not ripen. They are not harvested and are left in the fields because they are tasteless when cooked. They are usually devoured by donkeys when its time for stock to harrow the fields.

When Mr. E. A. Mkhize explains, a wire is sharpened so that it can easily pierce that object which is hurled at, for example the bulb root. If wire is not plenty, a short piece is sharpened and joined to a stick so that hurling will be possible.

This stick is called an arrow. Sometimes a stick is sharpened and is used to hurl at bulb roots, as such it is also called an arrow.

Where is it played?
This game is played in a sloppy area where bulbous roots can easily fall through.

When is it played?
This game is played during the day, in winter when grass is not tall and when there are left one half-rotten melons and pumpkins not harvested in the fields which boys hurl at.

How is it played?
This is a very old game played by boys of the rural areas when they are out herding stock. It was very popular among boys because it was easy to complete successfully. The one who usually hit the target became famous and was recognised as a hero. Each and every boy had to prepare his arrow by himself. Boys would line up for their turn from top to the bottom of the sloppy area. The one who held the last position in the line was usually the one who seldom hit the target. The one on the first position in the line was usually the one who never missed the target. Lined up like that, one of the boys will go to the top of the slop and roll the bulbous root down the hill. Each one of the lined boys will prepare to shoot the rolling root when his turn comes. The first on the line takes the first turn to hurl. In this way boys learnt to hurl and the valorous ones were identified here.

Custom associated with this game
The Zulu nation used hurling when involved in a battle/war. Boys learnt hurling at a tender age so that as grown ups, they will not face difficulties in times of war. There was no particular training given in preparation for wars. It was on the games like these that people learnt to hurl.

Expert spearmen were identified early in the partners during games such as hurling. Hurling assisted boys by teaching them to be spot on when shooting targets. It made them to be expert spearmen when they grew up. This is the reason the researcher claims that this game made boys to be highly successful because the experts at it became famous among young and old. It was customary among Zulus to train the young especially boys and equip them for the future. It was a way of preparing them to be good warriors, men of valour. In other words this was a norm for the Zulu nation. Even the research conducted by Frost and Klein testifies to this and claims: “This is the way children learn their adult responsibilities.”

From a Masters dissertation by Victoria Mkhize for the School of IsiZulu, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Supervised by Professors P.J. Zungu and V. Prabhakaran.

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