The Zulu village is a great circle, made up of a spherical homestead, umuzi, which is a cluster of beehive-shaped huts arranged around a cattle kraal, isibaya. Each homestead is a self-contained economic and legal unit with its own cattle and crops, ruled by the umnumzana or homestead head.
Cattle are an integral part of the spiritual, social and aesthetic lives of the Zulu people, and are named accordingly – after birds, animals, plants, fruit, stones, sand, food or natural phenomena. They are killed for food only with great reluctance.
In Zulu culture, no marriage is considered complete until a child is born. It is believed that a family does not raise a child; an entire village raises it. For this reason, every child grows up with a free life and few restrictions, but begins contributing to the community at an early age.
Today, if you ask a Zulu what it means to be Zulu, they will reply that they have a strong sense of coming from something; of belonging; of understanding their origins. They will express an abiding connection to and respect for their elders and ancestors – nourished by a clear identity, fervent pride and African passion.
Traditional Zulus are primarily cattle-keepers and farmers, but they also hunt and gather wild foods – using animal skins for clothing and utensils, sinews for thread, ivory for trade and organs for magic.
Historically, hunts were treated like military expeditions in which lion and elephant, as well as other big game, were hunted with spears, shields and knobkerries and trapped with snares, deep straight-sided pits and fences.
After the hunt, the Zulus used to eat the hearts and eyes of lion and elephant – believing that consuming these will help them to overcome fear or hopelessness.