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"We now come to speak of the Zulu population, not far
from three hundred thousand in number and mostly refugees
from Zulu-land. They are an interesting people, of differ-
ent shades of color from light brown to black, well formed,
of erect carriage and smiling countenances, with teeth well
set and beautifully white, and capable of enduring great fatigue
and hardships. They are eminently social, and fond of chat-
ting from morn till night. Their hair is curly, but not so
much so as that of the negro on the Western Coast, nor are
their noses quite so flat nor their lips so thick. Of war they
are very fond, and when actually engaged in conflict their
thirst for the blood of their foes is insatiable. Occasionally
they have violent altercations among themselves, but their
anger quickly subsides, and they are good friends again.
The following instance of heroic devotion is reported to have
occurred only a short time since, and has hardly a parallel in
civilized countries.

" A case of succession to the chieftainship of a tribe was
decided before the local magistrate, and the hearing of the case
was attended by numerous adherents of the rival claimants.
After the decision, as the chiefs were returning homewards,
the beaten party were suddenly overtaken by a grass fire,
whereby thirteen of their number were destroyed. The
young claimant to the chieftainship would have shared the
same fate, had not one of his followers made him lie down on
the ground, where, covering him with his own body as a
protection against flames, he deliberately allowed himself t
be burnt to death, and thus sacrificed his own life to save
that of one whom he believed to be his legitimate chieftain."

" These people are divided into clans or tribes, scattered
over the colony, living chiefly on lands set apart for them by
the British government. Each tribe has a distinct chief, and
all the chiefs are answerable to the English magistrates from
whom they can appeal to the Secretary for native affairs, who


exercises general supervision. They pay an annual tax of seven
shillings per hut to the authorities, and are remarkably loyal.
A chief seldom refuses to appear before an English magis-
trate if summoned. Should he do so it would be consider-
ed rebellion and he would be deprived of his chieftainship and
" eaten up" a phrase common in South Africa ; that is, strip-
ped of his property.

Their habitations are kraals, composed of wicker-work
huts, from eight to twelve feet high, thatched with long grass
and impervious to rain. The opening is about two feet in
height, and answers for door, window, and chimney. The
floor is of ant heap, a glutinous kind of earth, pounded hard
by the women of the kraal, and smeared daily with fresh
cow's manure. Xear the opening is a cavity surrounded by
an elevated rim, where the fire is made, the food cooked, (con-
sisting of Indian corn, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes,) and
around which the inhabitants sit on their haunches, chatting,
singing, laughing, smoking, snuffing, and dozing.

On one side, rush mats are spread, on which they sleep, the
other side being occupied by goats and calves. Pots of beer
and sour milk, baskets, fire wood, tobacco, stones for grind-
ing, shields, spears, etc., lie scattered about in different parts
of the dwelling.

A kraal has two circular fences, made of stakes and thorn
bushes woven closely together. The inner fence encloses a
fold, into which the cattle are driven at sundown, the entrance
being closely barricaded at night to keep out wild beasts, or
what are far more dreaded, dbatdkali (witches).*

The food of the natives, chiefly Indian corn, is preserved
in deep, bottle-shaped holes dug in the cattle fold, the mouths
of which are closed with large flat stones, and then covered
with solid manure to the depth of three or four feet. Rarely
do the Zulus utilize their manure for agricultural purposes.
Ashes are never used, but thrown into heaps outside of the

*The number of huts planted in a circle around this fence, varies according to
the number of wives the owner of the kraal possesses. The proprietor of a Zulu
Larem would never think of placing two wives in one hut.



kraal. When asked why they do not make use of these things
like white people, they reply :

" Our fathers never did so, nor will we."

This appeal to ancestral custom is a standing argument in
justification of all their superstitions and absurdities.

The labor of digging, planting, harvesting, getting fire
wood', drawing water, grinding, cooking, taking care of the
children, indeed all the hard work is performed by the women.
The men build the frame-work of the huts and the fences,
milk and take care of the cows, watch the gardens, driving
away the birds and wild pigs, and this is about the extent of
their employment. Their idea of otium cum, diynitate is to
do as little as possible. From day to day they see their poor
mothers, wives, and sisters carrying heavy burdens, without
ever thinking it incumbent on them to render them any assis-

They spend the time principally in hunting, lounging,
snuffing, drinking beer, smoking, or bargaining for wive?.
The question " What shall we eat and what shall we drink,
and wherewithal shall we b clothed V is not one about which
they concern themselves. Their missionaries never find it
necessary to preach on the text " Take no thought for the
morrow," as they obey this literally. " Not slothful in busi-
ness," etc., is the Scripture they need to have especially

The following description of the marriage customs of the
Zulus, is from the pen of one who is intimately acquainted
with them :

" Courtship is generally carried on so far as possible between
the parties favorably disposed towards each other, without
the knowledge of the parents. When the matter is fully set-
tled between them, the girl runs away from her own kraal to
that of the young man. The next day, or the day after that,
the father and brothers of the young man, driving before
them two or three head of cattle, go* to the kraal from which
the girl came, to negotiate, if agreeable, in regard to the pro-
posed union.



" Iii case no objection is made, they are kindly received, pass
round the snuff-box, and spend two or three hours talking
over the matter. The bargain is made, ten, fifteen, or twenty
cows as the matter may be, according to the wealth or rank
of the future bridegroom's relations. The cattle, which were
driven to the kraal, are retained as the first installment.

<k The marriage ceremonies generally take place in the
Autumn, after the harvests are gathered in, and all have
plenty of leisure. Both parties have new dances and songs,
and it is a matter of emulation which shall excel. The bride
lias always by her a stock of mats, spoons, dishes, etc., which
she has been preparing, and her father gives her a blanket
and cattle, according to his rank.

" But no girl ever goes to her husband without one ox,
which is ever looked on afterwards as the ox of the Arnah-
lozi (spirits), the loss of which by death would be considered
a token of desertion by the protecting spirits of her father's
house, and the slaughter of which, in the event of any calam-
ity (such as disease or barrenness), is an acceptable sacrifice.

" When the eventful day has arrived, the bride and party,
the higher the rank the more followers, set out for the kraal,
(which, however, they will not enter till it is night,) singing
and dancing as they go. Early in the morning, they go down
to some stream, wash and dress, and about noon come up and
begin the dance, the bridegroom's party -looking on.

" When both sides have finished, which may or may not
be on the first day, a cow is slaughtered by the bridegroom,
which belongs to the bride's party. At night, the girl wan-
ders about the kraal, followed by her own sex, relations of
the bridegroom. She is crying for her father's house, where
she was well treated. Xow she is coming into a strange
household, where she may be ill-used, and has only the cer-
tainty of hard work. She is supposed to be trying to run
away, and the girls to be preventing her.

" JS'ext day the husband, his brothers, sisters, and friends,
take their seat in the cattle kraal, and the second and last part
of the ceremony (ukuhlambisa) takes place. The bride comes




in with her party of girls, carrying in her hand an assegai
(spear), which, by the way, she has carried all the time. One
girl bears a pot of water and a calabash, another some beads.
The bride ponrs some water into the spoon, as also a few
beads. Then coming up singing and dancing, she throws it
over her husband.

" She repeats this with her brother and sister-in-law, striking
the latter at the same time as a symbol that she from that
time, assumes authority over the girls in her husband's house-
hold. Immediately this is done, she breaks the staff of the
spear, which she has all along held in her hand, and makes a
run for the gate of the kraal, as the last effort to get away.
If she is not stopped by a young man appointed for the pur-
pose, it is a great disgrace, and the husband has to pay a cow
to get her back. ( Ukuhlambisa ' means to give wherewithal
to wash the hands. Perhaps it is a symbol that on that day,
she has washed away all her old life. The marriage rites are
then finished. No widow remarried breaks the staff of the

"For some time after marriage the wife will not eat sour
milk. She was paid with milk-giving cattle, and she cannot
eat her own purchase price. But after a while, she goes to
her father, takes the broken spear with her, and returns with
a goat, or sheep or cow. This is slaughtered, the defiling
principle goes off the milk into the dead animal, and hence-
forth she may drink the milk. In Zulu language, she has
' cleaned her spoon.' "

Their forms of politeness are many, and strictly adhered
to. When a stranger arrives at a kraal, he will most likely,
if in the day-time, find the owner sitting by the gate. lie
will Italeka, (salute) ; he will say umgane, (literally friend)
but it is a respectful salutation. If he is his superior, he
will place his spears at a little distance, advance and sit down,
saying nothing till he is saluted in turn. Presently the
head man will say, Saku bona, (literally, "I see you,")
equivalent to our "good morning," and all around, one by
one, will give him the same greeting. lie will answer to each


one separately " yebo " (yes, I agree ;) after that, conversation
may go on.

If the owner of the kraal is not at the gate, but in his hut,
even although the visitor did not come to see him, yet he will
not leave without going up to salute him. It would be said
lie was sneaking about the kraal. If it is his chief's, or any
other chief's kraal, he will find the captain, or head man
under the chief, and after saying umgane to him, he will
express his wish to see the great man, or explain his business.
The captain then takes him up to the king and he salutes
him. If he is of sufficient consequence, the king salutes him
in return, asking what he has brought him ; if not, he will sit
outside the hut, until he sees an opening when he will begin
his business.

It is not etiquette for an inferior to stand in the presence
of a superior; he must squat down. They reverse our idea.
They say " Is he to overshadow the chief?" When he takes
leave of any one he has been visiting he says, Sola kahle,'llt-
erally, remain well. It is not etiquette to give you beer with-
out first tasting it. It is a loyal custom and to insure you
against there being " death in the pot." While one is eating, you
must not spit, but you may blow your nose as much as you
like although there are no handkerchiefs amongst the Zulus.

The language of this people is philosophically constructed,
euphonious, easy of acquisition, and adapted to music of which
they are excessively fond, often rendering their war and mar-
riage songs with great effect. In manufacturing things for
their own use, as spears, baskets, mats, milk-pails, pottery, &c.
they are quite skillful and show themselves capable of instruc-
tion in all kinds of employment.

Some have besu taught to print, and make excellent
compositors. They also prove efficient engineers in sugar
mills. One, who with a comrade bought a mill for 700,
after three days' observation and instruction was competent
to run it himself. The men and boys generally carry clubs
and spears for killing birds, antelopes, snakes, sea-cows leo-
pards, hyenas, porcupines, wild pigs and other animals.


They are fond of fire-arms, but are commonly prohibited by
magistrates the possession of them. The ordinary dress of
the men is simply a few strips of the skin of some wild ani-
mal, fastened about the loins, though in cold weather they
wrap themselves up in a blanket, if they are so fortunate as
to possess one.

The women wear a skirt of ox hide fastened about the
waist. The married men wear on the top of the head a ring
made of fibre gummed over with a material like gutta percha.
This ring rises with the growth of the hair, often six inches
or more, and in the distance resembles a tall black cap, is
always kept in trim, shining like polished ebony, and forms
a convenient receptacle for tooth-picks, porcupine quills, snuff-
spoons, feathers, etc. The unmarried men have their hair
dressed in all sorts of fantastic shapes, now looking like a
helmet, now half a musk melon, and sometimes like a couple
of hills with a deep valley between.

The married women shave their heads, leaving a tuft on
the crown which they work up into an ornamental top-knot,
with red clay and tallow. In these matters there is no
accounting for Zulu taste any more than among civilized

Formerly thej^ were hospitable, but since the English have
established hotels, and charge for "favors received," they
also imitate their white brethren, and in this as well as some
other things copied from the Europeans, they go to an

They are exceedingly fond of dancing, and the following
is a good description of one of their dances :

" They arrange themselves in a circle or semi-circle, and
the dancing consists chiefly in stamping lightly on the ground,
swinging the hands up and down in unison with the feet,
and chanting a kind of tune. The men grunt out a kind of
hum-drum bass, while the women shout out and scream, vary-
ing from high to low as the Custom may dictate, and some-
times all break forth into shouting and yelling, which may
be heard at a great distance.


These orgies frequently commence early in the afternoon,
and continue into the night. The sport is sometimes height-
ened by introducing a bullock into the ring. As he goes
round and round, one pulls his tail, another seizes his foot, or
performs some other foolish feat. If the ox breaks through
the circle, as he sometimes does, the whole company set Tip a
tremendous shouting as they rush away, trying to surround
the animal and bring him back to his place.

At these dances the people often shout till they become
hoarse, and by exposing themselves to the night air in a state
of profuse perspiration, many of them contract rheumatic and
pulmonary diseases which serve to embitter and shorten their

The religion of the Zulus we may designate as spirit w r or-
ehip. Witchcraft enters largely into it. The witches are
supposed to be human beings, prowling about at night with
wild beasts, and like them, carrying poisons, which they leave
in the pathway or in the food of those appointed to destruc-
tion. Nothing do they dread so much as a witch. All their
lifetime are they in bondage through fear of death from this
source. As in their heathen state they rarely see any natural
cause for death, except in case of accident, decrepitude, or
decay, and never regard it as the ordering of divine Providence,
it is attributed to the machinations of a wizard or poisoner.
To ferret out the machinator, resort is had to extraneous aid.
A spirit doctor living oftentimes a long way off is sent for to
consult the ancestral spirits, and obtain definite knowledge in
regard to the origin of this calamity. They readily pay him
beforehand, though rarely if ever their medical practitioner,
unless a cure is effected. If not successful in his mission, they
coolly remark :

" That man did not understand his profession. He has no
established connection with the spirit world ; " so, nothing
daunted, they Bend for another " medium. "

These spiritual quacks, are the foes of all Christianizing
agencies. Like Simon of old they perceive that their craft




is in danger by working on the popular superstitions, they
constantly strengthen the ancestral belief in regard to the
influence of departed spirits on human life and destiny.
Kemove from the Zulu his faith in the " spirit doctors " to '
find out from the spirit world what is beyond the knowledge
of other mortals, and you at once undermine his religion.

It is easy to see how formidable an obstacle Zulu spiritualism
presents to Evangelistic eiforts, but Polygamy their idol and
curse, is a still greater one. All that a Zulu man hath will
he give for wives, and the number he possesses, is limited
only by the number of cows he has with which to purchase
them. The market price of a stout, healthy girl of fourteen
years, formerly ranged from fifteen to thirty cows, and the
avaricious old men with a plurality of wives and numerous
children, were able to monopolize the wife market, contin-.
ually increasing their own stock, raising the price of females,
and thereby rendering it difficult for young men to obtain
partners for life. By a late act of legislation on the part of
the English government this difficulty has been partially

As the law now stands, no Zulu father can collect
in court of justice more than ten cows for his daughter.
Every marriage must be registered, and 5 must be paid by
the bridegroom for a marriage license. The young men,
whom the girls generally prefer, are now better able to
purchase helpmeets, and Polygamy is somewhat curtailed.

Doubtless this abomination would have been checked long
ago, were it not that the safety of Natal depends somewhat
on the divisions of the various native tribes, and any strin-
gent law suppressing it entirely, would result in a combina-
tion of the natives against the colonists. Only those who have
witnessed the working of Polygamy, and its kindred evil of
chattelizing females, can form a clear idea of its degrading
influence, and the strong counteracting agency it presents to
all benevolent efforts. The family institution is in ruins.
Woman is a slave and drudge. Contemplate for a moment
the heathen Zulu wife creeping into, or seated in her hut of


haystack architecture, without window, door two feet high
and eighteen inches wide ; this one room the kitchen, parlor
and bed-room, with a part fenced off for goats and calves !

She has prepared the morning meal for her lord and master,
which is boiled corn, mashed and mixed with sour milk He
eats alone, giving what he leaves to the hungry children or
more hungry dogs. The wife must provide for herself.
Fear and distrust reign there ; she brings him beer, but must
first sip herself to show that there is no " death in the pot."
While he lounges, smokes, snuffs, hunts the antelope, guzzles
beer, or gads from kraal to kraal, discussing a recent case
of witchcraft, or the market price of wives, or gorges him-
self with beef like a boa constrictor, she, with a child on
her back and a heavy pick on her shou Ider, goes to the fields,
digs the hard soil all day long, or pulls the rank weeds from
the garden, and returns home at night with a heavy bundle
of fire-wood on her head. She must serve as the plow, cart,
horse and ox.

Soon another wife comes to the kraal. Now arise
envies, jealousies and strife ; perhaps poison is administered ;
the prophet of the tribe is called, and she is pronounced a
witch unfit to live ; or if she survives a few years, see her in
a dying hour, no light on the dark river, no faith in any
Redeemer, no rest beyond the grave, no words of sympathy
from gazing friends, she turns one side and dies ; and where
is she ?

O, the miseries of poor heathen Zulu women ! Obliged to
do all the hard work, and bear all the heavy burdens, at
thirty, they look like old and decrepit women of seventy. To a
home, " sweet home," where peace, comfort and joy reign,
they are absolute strangers. Were we to picture out the full
effect of that soul-withering power, heathenism,

" We'd write a book, which whoso dared to read,
His eyes, instead of tears, in crimson drops would bleed."

And yet the question is sometimes asked, " Are not the
heathen as they are found in their normal state happy ? " In a
degraded sense they are so, and occasionally there gleams


forth a ray of that superior joy which, if developed by Chris-
tianity, would gladden their whole social existence ; but gen-
erally their enjoyment is more like that of brutes. Give not
to heathen joys the misnomer, happiness. A poet has truth-
fully described the heathen without the gospel in these
words :

" No hope, no peace, no joy they have,
Nor ray of light beyond the grave,
No book to guide, no grace to cheer,
Their freedom bondage, their religion fear ;
These, behold ! are nature's sons the while,
All nature's fair, and only these are vile ;
Come nature, bring your choicest treasures forth,
Without thy God what are thy children worth?"

Enough has been said to show that the Zulus though very
degraded are an interesting people. The reader will naturally
ask, "What is being done for their elevation?" "We would
say in reply, only an imperfect impression can be given on
paper. American and European missionaries are in the field,
the former having taken the lead. Messrs. Grout, Champion
and Adams landed in Natal in 1835. Durban was then
but a plain of sand, with scarcely a vestige of civilization
visible, where wild beasts and wild men roamed at their
pleasure. Those men did not go to that distant part of the
world in quest of wealth, but to elevate degraded savages.

Though interrupted by wars, they adhered to their work
with a devotion truly sublime. The results of their self-sac-
fice, as recorded in missionary publications from year to year,
show that the hand of the Lord has been upon them for good.
Deep and broad are the foundations of religious institu-
tions which have been laid. The first obstacle they had to
overcome was profound ignorance. They found the natives
with no written language, and were obliged to commence at
the bottom.

Xot only was it necessary to reduce the language to writing,
make books and teach, but to create a desire to be taught.
For years, their indifference to learning was very dishearten-
ing. A knowledge of the alphabet generally proceeded the


casting away of the rude heathen dress made of the skins of
wild animals, and putting on some article of civilized cloth-
ing. About twenty years ago, a missionary in Natal remark-
ed that " a shirt was the anxious-seat of the Zulus," and
there \vas truth in it ; for at that time, we can hardly conceive
that any one Avould venture thus to encroach upon native cus-
tom, were he not animated by the highest of motives.

But it is not so now. A desire is often manifested among
the heathen for these very garments which once excited such
ridicule and opposition. Were it not that they find other uses
for their money, such as paying taxes, and buying cattle to
barter for wives, many of them would be glad to wear cloth-
ing in cold weather. In summer it might be considered an
incumbrance. It is amusing to witness the effect of a little
learning and a few articles of dress, in raising a Zulu's tone
of self-importance. S-ome, after being under the civilizing
process only a few days, regard themselves as on the road to
faith, according to their idea of what faith is.

The time required to teach a Zulu to read fluently depends
chiefly on his natural talent. Some are able to read well in
six months, but most require a longer time. In mental as
well as physical ability we may regard them naturally in no

Online LibraryJosiah TylerLivingstone lost and found → online text (page 49 of 51)