Monday, September 19, 2011

Zulu maidens at Shakaland

For overnight guests Shakaland’s programme includes two sessions conducted by Blessing Dube, Shakaland’s Cultural Advisor. His knowledgeable and sometimes amusing commentary gives visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the lives of the rural Zulu.

Gathered around a miniature family kraal, Dube explained the rituals of courtship and the lobola system, whereby a bridegroom pays for his bride with a gift of cattle to his new in-laws.

Etiquette, we discovered, is strictly observed in Zulu society. For example it would be disrespectful to walk uninvited into a Zulu man’s kraal. “How would you like it if you found me right there in your flower garden doing my own thing?” Blessing asked.

We learned how to make Zulu beer and sipped some of the brew from a hollowed out calabash shell. It was thick, pale- coloured and sour.

Being South Africans we were not surprised to see young bare-breasted women walking about the garden with clay pots balanced on top of their heads. The Zulu custom is for single women to wear only the tiniest of mini skirts and to go topless.

Once a woman marries her dress is more modest. Her breasts are covered with a beaded antelope skin and she wears “a married woman’s skirt” made out of a cow skin cut into strips and sewn together to form pleats. The hide is softened by rubbing it with wild animal fat, and colouring it with charcoal. She also grows her hair long, rubs in a mixture of fat, herbs and clay and braids it into an elaborate head dress which requires sleeping with her head on a wooden cradle at night.

In Shaka’s time, married warriors who spent many months away from their wives when at war, had to wear a penis cover devised by their ingenious leader. “It was called ‘the mad man’s hut’ and it controlled feelings”, Dube explained.
More to follow ...
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Monday, 19th September, 2011


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