Archive for the ‘Zulu’ Category


Cows are also king of the road in Zululand.

One cannot go a day in Zululand without discovering just how important having cattle is to a Zulu man, and indeed a Zulu woman.

As part of my goal to learn more about the culture in which I work, I’ve created this blog detailing the link between the Zulu people and Nguni cattle.

Here are some interesting facts about cattle and the Zulu culture:

  • In a traditional Zulu homestead the cattle byre is the centre, and all doors often face the byre where the cattle spend every evening.
  • The predominant type of cattle of the Zulu people are called ‘Nguni.’
  • For many years,through the 20th century and well into the 1980s, Nguni cattle were thought of as inferior to the ‘purer’ European breeds.  The wide variety of colour, horn size and shape and even conformation of the animal flew in the face of Eurocentric ideals of breed conformity and racial purity.
  • However, there are some significant advantages to owning Nguni cattle – they thrive in low-grazing areas, are heat, tick and tick-borne disease tolerant, have an even temperament, live long lives and calve well.
  • Cattle are used for marriage exchanges; a bride price is called ‘lobola’ and is usually 11 cows, although this differs and is decided upon between the potential husband and the bride’s family. 
  • If a couple divorce, the ex-wife must pay back the cattle that were given as her bride price – minus a cow for every child she bore during the marriage.
  • Cows have historically been important within Zulu society, from linking families through marriage, legitimizing children, embodying a ruler’s power and even as part of ancestral religion.
  • Cattle are also seen as the intermediary between people and the spirit world. A beast is slaughtered at weddings, funerals and other significant events and this is said to bring the ancestors closer to the living.
  • They are also important in terms of their uses as food, clothing and fuel.
  • One of the most rigid rules of historical Zulu society (and even practiced today) is that sour milk (coming from a cow) can only be shared within a family group.
  • It is said that ‘Inkunzi ayahlaba ngokumisa’ or, loosely translated, one should not judge a bull by his horns.
  • White cattle were so favoured in traditional Zulu culture that if a white calf was born to the byre of a commoner, it was automatically given to the king. Cetshwayo’s massive herd of white cattle was legendary.
  • In contrast with the Zulu kingdom’s love of white cattle, the Swazi monarchy’s cattle were black.

The Zulu people gave names to types of cattle based on their distinct colour patterns, horn shape, gender, status and history. Here are some examples:

  • An "Egg in the Lark" calf.

    An ‘Egg in the Lark’ calf.

    ‘The egg of the lark’ – a cream-coloured cow, spotted lightly with rust.

  • ‘Castor oil bean’ – A dun and white-mottled cow
  • ‘The Fish Eagle’ – Black cattle with a white head.
  • Inkone – a characteristic of Nguni cattle whereby a cow has a white stripe along the spine and a white underbelly, with the pattern on the left mirroring the pattern on the right of the cow. These cows are greatly favoured.
  • Inyonikayiphumuli – white cattle of the Zulu monarch, characteristics include dark points on the ears, muzzle, horns, hooves and eyes. The name means ‘birds that have no rest.’

Special thanks to ZuluCattle.com and W.D. Hammond-Tooke’s essay ‘Cattle Symbolism in Zulu Culture’ as well as my Zulu ladies for teaching me about Ngunis.


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When the first individuals suffering from AIDS were discovered in the United States in 1981, there was no such thing as World AIDS Day. These individuals suffered in a silence that surrounded HIV/AIDS for years, particularly in America but also throughout the world, until the first World AIDS Day in 1988.
For us at African Impact – St Lucia, the 1st of December is likely the most important date on the calendar. It’s a line underneath all of the work we do throughout the year with AIDS orphans, HIV education and support groups in the communities in which we work.
Worldwide, an estimated 33.3 million people are living with HIV, and more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Sub-Saharan Africa remains the main battleground in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, and South Africa is an important area to work in because of the large number of individuals living with the virus. Our message on World AIDS Day was one of education – particularly surrounding HIV prevention and positive living.
An important part of raising awareness in a province whose HIV infection rate is approximately 39% is getting tested, knowing your status and living positively. Living in an area where life-saving antiretroviral treatment is available means individuals can still live long, healthy lives with HIV, and prevent transmission to their partners and children.
After a very successful World AIDS Day campaign in 2011, we decided to join forces and hold an event in partnership with the Sipho Zungu Clinic in Khula Village and Peace Corps volunteer Danielle Piccinini. The end result was a day filled with local talent, speakers and activities for kids and adults.
36Alongside the main event, the clinic and local NGO the Africa Centre held testing and counseling for HIV/AIDS and promoted sexual health check-ups for women and men.
Volunteers and staff spent the morning preparing food and setting up the event, which lasted the majority of the day and hosted over 400 people. With healthy living parcels to give out (which included toothbrushes, toothpaste and condoms), the volunteers also tested the crowd on their knowledge of HIV and gave out prizes for those who could correctly put a condom on a wooden penis.
This year’s UNAIDS Global Report detailed an epidemic that is on the decline, but there is plenty more to be done in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Travel restrictions on the HIV positive, human rights abuses in a number of nations and the ongoing battle to educate individuals on prevention and treatment remains paramount if next year’s figures are to show a continued decrease in the epidemic’s power.
We were proud to do our part this year in an area of the world where education is so needed, and although we work towards the goals of World AIDS Day every day of the year, to be able to celebrate with the rest of the world gives us a real high.
World AIDS Day is not only important for those 33 million HIV positive individuals living on all corners of the globe – it is an important day to remember those who perished first without the worldwide support of a day to encourage acceptance and spread knowledge.
Read more from our African Impact – St Lucia projects on our official blog.
We were Live Tweeting from our World AIDS Day event!
Check out the full album of photographs from the day here. 

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Gogo Togo and Gogo Joyce had a fantastic time bantering as their feet were soaked in bath salts.

For those who don’t already know, my life (and job) can be incredibly random. Sometimes I have trouble deciding what I would like to blog about, as most of these random life and job events have somehow become just normal occurrences of the everyday.

However, I’ve been pestered about keeping up my blog, particularly when it comes to these random things that are usually also hilarious, so here it goes – the first in a series of what I’m sure will be oddball stories that will probably garner laughs, confusion and maybe outrage, depending on the day.

Let me start with something that happened just this past week, at the support group I help facilitate each Wednesday.

Our African Impact volunteers work on projects in two separate areas – Khula Village and Ezwenelisha. Both are rural communities composed mostly of Zulu-speaking South Africans, although Ezwenelisha is much more spread out and some would say more “traditional” than its Khula counterpart down the road.

On Wednesdays, the volunteers, Nokwethemba our medical coordinator and myself head out to Ezwenelisha to sit under a big tree for our Ezwenelisha Support Group. The group is for those affected or infected with HIV (in an area where 70%-80% of the population is infected with HIV, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t fall into this category), and takes place each week. Normally we have 6-9 regular members, who come together to discuss their weeks, health and sometimes a subject that they have asked us to research the week before.

Now this week in particular the ladies and Bheki (our token male member) had been talking about suffering from sore feet. Many  of our members walk long distances, wear uncomfortable shoes and have a tendency to go barefoot (I can relate). So we decided  to treat our members to some pedicures while teaching them about keeping their feet healthy.

Hilarity and randomness obviously ensued.

Jess, Miriam and I set up buckets of bath salts as well as different stations for feet washing, scrubbing, massaging and nail painting. What a hit it was! Our two Gogos enjoyed it the most – arguing over whether they’d have their toenails painted like teenagers – they loved getting special treatment.

Me giving the Induna a pedicure as some of the other support group members look on. They felt honoured to have him visit us for the morning.

Now you can imagine this type of event garnered some attention from passers-by, and funny enough one of these individuals ended up being the community’s incoming Induna (chief), who will be inaugurated at the end of April.

He stopped his truck and yelled out to us in Zulu, asking what we were doing. And instead of answering him with an explanation, Nokwethemba invited him over to see for himself.

And thus Miriam, Jess and I ended up giving the chief of Ezwenelisha a pedicure. Not something you do everyday now is it? And as you can imagine he greatly appreciated it, even jokingly propositioning a couple of us to be his third wife and as he left exclaiming that he would be back next Wednesday for another.

Talk about improving community relations. Pedicures all ’round!


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