The Zulus and agriculture
The Zulu (or Zulu) are an African ethnic group that belongs to the much larger Ngoni nation. It is a population of about 11 million people who are mainly located in the area of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. The language spoken by this population is isiZulù, a Bantu language belonging to the nguni subgroup. It is an agglutinative language, that is, an idiom in which the words are made up of the union of several morphemes.
Their name derives from amaZulù, which in isiZulù means “people of the sky”.
This population, during the apartheid regime, was considered of a lower level; today they are the largest ethnic group in the country and enjoy the same rights as other South African citizens.
The monarchical political structure of the Zulus continues, even today, to exert considerable influence, even on their activities, even if incorporated into the South African state structure. Now let’s see what the relationship between the Zulus and agriculture is. In the Zulu population there is a clear distinction of roles between men and women. The main occupation is breeding that is entrusted to men, while agriculture is almost entirely taken care of by women.
This activity obviously had repercussions and repercussions on the customs, clothing and lifestyle of this population. Today, however, many elements of the traditional culture of the Zulus have disappeared, due to the influence of Western and European customs. The skin coats (kaross), the rich ornaments for the dances, the oval shields of skin, the clubs and the lances, the fighting axes, the indigenous ceramics, the household objects carved in the wood, etc. are gradually becoming a vague memory.
The Zulus have a social organization based on the patrilinean descendants and age classes (ibutho).
The traditional religion, which was predominantly manuscript, is based on the prevalence of a creative divinity, Unkulunkulu, at the same time demiurge and mythical ancestor of the Zulus.
It is said that Unkulunkulu emerged from the void and created men using the grass. Life followed death, but it was born of two messengers who were sent with two different messages: the lizard had to warn that human beings were mortal while a chameleon had to warn them that they were immortal, the chameleon was distracted during the journey and so the lizard came first. Unkulunkulu then decided to create the institution of marriage, to bring doctors knowledge to recover from diseases, to give fire to cook. Finally he gave a place after death. Like the Bushmen, even the Zulus are convinced that the stars are the eyes of the dead.
The historical region inhabited by the Zulus corresponding to the northern part of the Kwa Zulu-Natal region; this region lies between the northern chains of the Dragons and the Indian Ocean and is limited to the south by the river Tugela and to the north by the river Pongola and the lower course of the Mkuze. In this region the Zulus are dedicated to the cultivation of corn, cane, cotton, tobacco, and breeding, in a climate that is subtropical and with abundant summer rains.
The rural community of the Zulus lives in villages, often without electricity and running water, in houses built in a mixture of mud bricks and more modern but economic materials. The Zulu aristocracy still tends to play a greater role in the leadership of the rural Zulu people. Locals amaKhosi (literally ladies, although “boss” is a more common translation) tend to have some influence on the people in their area. Some Zulu communities live by selling wicker items and necklaces to tourists and city dwellers. Some are just simple farmers, following a subsistence agriculture, although the great aspiration for a family member is to find work in a nearby town, supporting the entire family with relative income.
But things for the Zulus are likely to change even more quickly than the normal evolution of history. In this sense, the South African Government intends to undertake an agrarian reform that could have considerable repercussions and, most likely, negative ones on ancient traditions and balances, also of an ecological nature.
In this sense, the ruler of the Zulu kingdom, Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuZulù, and Afriforum (non-governmental organization defending the culture of Afrikaners and their involvement in public life) recently declared their union against the land reform that the South African government president Cyril Ramaphosa wants to realize, expropriating the lands still owned by the white majority, without compensation, and redistributing them to 17 million black people. King Zulu controls a territorial and administrative entity, the Ingonyama Trust, located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, which covers 2.8 million hectares and fears the expropriation and consequently the weakening of its authority, although Ramaphosa promised him that the reform would not touch his land.
In this sense, other traditional leaders have intervened who have asked the government to protect their lands and their power, since they consider themselves custodians of cultures and traditions that need protection to survive, but the most critical ones can see economic interests. Many of these leaders in fact possess lands rich in minerals and strategic resources, without which they could not do business with foreign companies.
In short, a story, quite controversial and all in the making, but it risks canceling old traditions and criteria of knowledge and governance of ecological balances that until now have guaranteed immense territories and ecosystems.