KwaZulu Cultural Museum – A Tribute to the Zulu Nation
Showcasing an impressive collection of items representing the Nguni-speaking peoples of South-Eastern Africa, the KwaZulu Cultural Museum is located at Ondini, near Ulundi, in the eMakhosini Valley – the Valley of the Zulu Kings – in the KwaZulu Natal Province of South Africa. The museum chronicles the history of the Zulu nation from its roots through to modern times, detailing the lives of great leaders such as Shaka and his successor, Cetshwayo, as well as their belief systems and how the Zulu culture is viewed in the world of today.
The collection is categorized under the headings of: Prehistory, Royalty, Domestic, Female Dress, Male Dress, Warfare, and Culture in Transition. Visitors will see the iconic symbols of the Zulu nation, such as the Isicholo headdress worn by married women in public, the spear and shield carried by warriors and the beautifully beaded love-letters. The beaded letters were a way of expressing love during courtship at a time when King Shaka placed a ban on young men marrying as he wanted them to focus on warfare. Prior to the reign of King Shaka in the early 19th century, the Zulu people were scattered about in smaller clans with individual chiefs. Shaka changed that by joining the clans into one nation, and today Zulus are the largest tribe with Zulu being the most widely spoken language in South Africa.
Visitors to the KwaZulu Cultural Museum will discover fascinating facts about Zulu beliefs, many of which are based on the presence of ancestral spirits and many of which continue to be observed today. For example, cattle are considered to be a measure of a man’s wealth, and white cattle are associated with ancestral spirits and representing fertility and purity.
Within the museum is a reconstruction of a traditional Zulu homestead, along with details of cultural activities such as the manufacture of musical instruments and the brewing of beer – the secret of which is believed to have been revealed by the Princess of Rain, Nomkhubulwana. In this area of the museum, visitors will learn about the strict divisions between the genders with regard to customs, dress and division of labour. Many of the displays in the KwaZulu Cultural Museum are interactive, making a visit to the centre both educational and entertaining.