Zulu Musical Instruments: Umakhweyana

Dizu Plaatjies demonstrating the umakhweyana

While the wooden bow is most often thought of as a weapon, there’s some debate as to whether it was first used for hunting, or instead as a musical instrument, as in the case of the umakhweyana. Also referred to as ugubu or umqangala in isiZulu, most people believe that the musical bow originates from the Khoisan, … Read more

The Mfecane Wars

In Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom, the former South African president talks about the AmaMfengu, people that was formed from groupings that were broken up and dispersed by King Shaka and his armies during the Mfecane wars. The name ‘Mfengu‘ translates to ‘wanderers’ and is a reference to how the AmaMfengu came to be; although today the group have largely … Read more

A Zulu Engagement ‘Ring’

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the different stages involved in a Zulu wedding, and with today being Valentines Day it seemed only appropriate that we should continue our theme of love, and look at something that happens right at the beginning of a relationship between a Zulu boy and girl – the exchange … Read more

Isicathamiya: A Brief History

Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds, 1941

There’s some debate about the origins of isicathamiya, although the general consensus seems to be that this Zulu style of performance was heavily influenced by the American ragtime troupes that toured South Africa in the mid-to-late 1800s. However isicathamiya, characterised by a cappella singing and tightly-choreographed dance moves, only really gained momentum in South Africa in the … Read more