Tag Archives | featured

Dizu Plaatjies demonstrating the umakhweyana

Zulu Musical Instruments: 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, […]

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Zulu warriors

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 […]

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Illustration of King Jama kaNdaba

Princess Mkabayi Kajama, an Early Zulu Feminist

The story of the Zulu princess, Mkabayi Kajama, reads like a tale of great feminism. Born a twin, it was expected that Mkabayi’s father, King Jama, would kill either her or her sister, Mmama. It was believed that bad luck would follow should both twins be allowed to live, and the community was upset at the King’s refusal to kill one […]

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Nelson & Winnie Mandela, after Mandela's release from prison, 11th February 1990

Amasi, Nelson Mandela’s Favourite Drink

Last Saturday marked the 27th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, after he had spent 27 years incarcerated. In honour of Madiba we thought that we would talk about one of his favourite drinks, amasi. Amasi, or maas, is a drink made from fermented milk. Some people believe that this traditional Zulu drink came about […]

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Zulu ibheqe, sometimes confused with ucu

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 […]

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Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds, 1941

Isicathamiya: A Brief History

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 […]

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