ANT 101 Intro to Cultural Anthropology
Instructor Shaun Sullivan
July 23 2012
The Zulu tribe of KwaZulu-Natal became historically important in the early 19th century by the founder Shaka of the Zulu nation. I will be discussing the history of who many consider the first king along with the variations of the beliefs and values of Zulu people. The kinship systems along with the rituals and healing processes that have been around for centuries will be detailed from traditional to modern views within this paper. Shaka of the Zulu nation was a notorious warrior king from 1816 until 1828, he was often considered the ﬁrst Zulu king because Shaka continued Zulu overrule to other chiefdoms in KwaZulu-Natal bringing dozens of people from clans and chieftainships and ultimately changing the Zulu tribe from a small clan into a nation that occupied a large portion of Southern Africa. Shaka was a fierce and militaristic king, some might say he was a monster, but he ruled fairly and compassionately to those who were loyal to him and his kingdom. “Shaka rewarded those who submitted to him and punished those who did not. If the Zulu state was more draconian than most states in its style of punishment, this reﬂected the character of the ruler perhaps, but also the weakness and insecurity of this newborn political order”. (Mahoney, 2003) His military accomplishments and new tactics of destroying his enemies marked him as one of the greatest Zulu chieftains. Shaka grew up in Mtetwa district; he and his mother where exiled from the Zulu Chiefdom after a dispute between her and Shaka’s father Senzangakona the Zulu chief. He became a remarkable warrior for the Mthethwa; and chief Dingiswayo was one of several chiefdoms that Shaka and his mother lived during their exile. Before Dingiswayo passed he helped Shaka become chief of the Zulu’s and having resentment for the way he was treated by others he invaded those neighboring chiefdoms, the Mthethwa and Langa. Shaka at various moments during his reign as chief would exterminate several other chiefdoms. “Shaka chose to pursue violently coercive policies even though his subjects considered him legitimate. Similarly, the historian Carolyn Hamilton has shown how the Zulu ruling class promoted its own legitimacy by manipulating oral traditions in such a way that they could be used to justify Zulu overrules.” (Mahoney, 2003). Shaka also conquered the Qwabe, another chiefdom he had stayed while in exile and after killing the chief they surrendered and chose to khonza or pledge their allegiance to Shaka. He could also be tolerant of insubordinate behavior from members, including high-ranking members of conquered chiefdoms. When the enemies who were conquered pledged their loyalty, they found Shaka was generous in presenting gifts of food that was pillaged from the enemies’ kingdom. Shaka had the ability to bring together tribes and ultimately had a powerful empire of 20,000 soldiers in his tribe. In 1828 Shaka was assassinated, by co-conspirator and stepbrother Dingane, who was killed during war. It has been indicated that the affiliation of the Zulu’s as “character assassination” by Dan Wylie and although it had some truth to it, not much has been accomplished to determine the causes and consequences of the violent Zulu king. In South Africa the Zulu (meaning people of heaven) belonging to the Ngunis are divided into tribes/clans and depending on the surname will determine the tribe or clan you belong to. The king of the Zulu clan is called the Inkosi, regarded as the father figure, the spiritual symbol of their tribe. The Zulu’s are the most dominating and largest tribe in South Africa numbering some eight million. Zulu language also known as isiZulu is one of the official spoken languages that the Zulu people speak, a language that’s expressive and punctuated with distinctive click sounds. The Zulu tribes are pastoralists and the economy depends...
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