The largest ethnic groups of South Africa, Zulu who are actually descended from the Nguni tribes live in South African province KwaZulu-Natal. The word Zulu denotes ‘The people of Heaven’ and their population is approximately 11 million and some of their family members also live in some parts of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. They speak Zulu language which is the most widely spoken language in South Africa and it is one of the official languages of the Republic of South Africa.
The Zulu people contributed an eminent part in the South African culture and history especially in the 19th and 20th century. During apartheid which was the governing system of South Africa between 1948 and 1994, the Zulus suffered from great racial discrimination and segregation. It was an era in South Africa when minority rule of white people was dominating and all rights of the indigenous populations were usurped. However they continued their struggles for their rights and after the election of Nelson Mandela as president of post-apartheid South Africa in 1994, the reforms were made and Zulus are identified today as the most numerous ethnic group in South Africa, and now have equal rights along with all other citizens.
Zulu religion includes belief in a creator god (Nkulunkulu), who is above interacting in day-to-day human affairs. Although due to preaching by the Christian missionaries , the most Zulus have embraced Christianity but still they have strong faith in ancestor spirits (Amatongo or Amadhlozi), who according to them have the full control in their lives. Politically Zulus are officially ruled by the South African government but their traditional way of obeying the commands of their leader is still carried on by them. The traditional clothing of Zulus consists of tremendous varieties and they wear in festive occasions and in cultural ceremonies. Zulu dress is animal skins for men and skirts decorated with hardwood beads for women.
The Zulu traditional dances are also a prominent feature of their identity. The important dances of Zulus are known as ‘Reed Dance’ which is performed by young maidens to attract their king who is looking for a wife. ‘Ingoma (isizingili)’ is a form of dance performed together by boys and girls with a song and no music. ‘Ingoma (ishishameni)’ a separate dance of boys and girls with clapping.
The most well known Zulu dance is ‘Indlamu’ which is actually associated with their war habits and cultures. It is a typical male dance and reflects the real colors of Zulu culture. They dress up themselves in their conventional attires and expose their traditional weapons. The dancers engage themselves in mock combat, expressing their strength and mastery of weapons.
On the whole all of the traditions of Zulu dances are closely related to their wedding rites, the succession of a new king, the choosing of a bride, and many other important religious and cultural events.