The Zulu nation is a part of South Africa, consisting of 360 clans. The clans mainly consist of rural people strongly rooted to their culture and heritage. For ages, Zulu people have been known for their highly skilled craftsmanship. Hand made attire made from feather, beads and other raw materials are worn by both the men and women in various traditional ceremonies organized by the Zulu people. Here is a look at the different handicrafts made by these deeply traditional people.
Dresses with beadwork are worn by the Zulu women. The unique aspect of this work is that certain messages may be conveyed through the use of colors and geometric designs. The designs have a single geometric shape, mainly a triangle, and seven different colors. The downward facing triangle is a symbol of an unmarried woman and the upward facing triangle represents an unmarried man. The colors can have positive or negative meanings, for example, yellow symbolizes wealth and blue a sign of ill-feeling or hostility.
Basket weaving is an age old art of Zululand. Girls start learning this skill from their mothers at a very young age. A Zulu girl of around 14-16 years is a skilled basket weaver. Several empowerment projects have been undertaken in the Zulu nation to revitalize the basket weaving skills of the women.
Indigenous raw materials like the Ilala Palm fronds are used for weaving baskets. It takes almost a month to make a medium sized basket. Isichumo, Iqoma, OOPS (Out of Ordinary Production System) baskets and nut bowls are examples of the basket craftwork of the Zulu people. The beer basket is another one of their unique craft items, used for serving sorghum beer.
The handmade hats are traditionally worn by Zulu women at occasions like weddings and funerals. But now, the hats are also popularly used as lampshades and wall hangings. These hats are made from vegetable fiber, rape and cotton.
The shapes of pots made vary between regions. These pots are normally painted black as the Zulu people believe that their ancestors hide in dark places. White pots too are now made to be used as decorative items in many places around the world.
There is very little influence of Western culture in Zululand. The unique handicrafts made from traditional raw materials are a reflection of the deep cultural roots of the Zulu people.