Traditional Zulu Wedding clothing included a beaded leather pouch which was used for carrying gifts or personal items. The Zulu Princesses Wedding Apron could also be used as a self-defense weapon as it contained beaded hinges, which could inflict harm on an assailant. The Zulu waist girdle symbolized in the bead work is a flowing river.
Colours used in Zulu Wedding clothing reflected that the wearer loved beer and was a good planter. If she were deeply in love with her husband there would be a red stripe at the bottom as a warning for other girls to stay away. In other words, she was saying I am not afraid to shed your blood if you interfere in my marriage.
Zulu brides wore ‘The talking cape’ this is worn over the brides back when she leaves her fathers home to go to her husband house on her wedding day. Different women from her home make each strip of the coat.
The wedding of a Zulu princess was attended by processions of people of all ages; the people would wear colourful regalia, which included feathers and beads and skins.
The princess too brightly coloured would carry a small shield and a ceremonial spear in her right hand. Her veil worn on her forehead would be made of beads to show respect to her in-laws and she would wear the red hairstyle of married women heavily decorated with beads. She would have bangles on her arms and necklaces on her neck and hanging around her left elbow would be a beaded bag with gifts for her in-laws.
Zulu weddings were and are a truly happy and joyous occasion.
The practice of having more than one wife shows the man’s social status, wealth and virility. The first wife will initiate the finding of further wives, as they are help around the house. The first wife and the grandmother exert powerful influence over the family. Each wife has her own hut which is located in order of standing from the husbands hut they also have their own fields, herd and cooks for their immediate family.
You may have heard of or purchased a Zulu Love letter, this is an intricate pattern of woven beads. Zulu women are brilliant at sewing the beads together in the form of necklaces that the recipient knows exactly what the message says. A red bead represents blood and denotes tears and longing, white beads signify love and purity, blue beads symbolize faithfulness.
To touch briefly on the origins of the Zulu nation. The Nguni people which included the Zulus, the Xhosa, Matabele and the Swazi had been gradually moving south with their herds for over one thousand years, eventually they reached the region of the Umfolozi River. A small clan was lead by the Chief Malandela, Malandela had a wife whose name was Nozinja and they had two sons Quabe and Zulu. After the death of his father Quabe eyed the small herd of the clan so Nozinja and Zulu found a new home.
Zulu married and his lineage all bared the name Zulu. At the end of the 18th century, Senzangakhona was born, at this stage the Zulu clan was still very small and only occupied a few square kilometers of land.
Senzangakhona flirted with the daughter of a neighbouring chief of the Elangeni clan called Nandi and as a result Shaka was born 1787. His name comes from uShaka, a beetle said to inhabit the stomach and give rise to a bloated abdomen. Named such because of Nandi’s pregnancy.
Article taken from Weddings in Africa ISBN 978-0-620-41164-6
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