For a glimpse into the history of the region, pop into the Zululand Historical Museum located within Fort Nongqavi Museum in Eshowe, the oldest town of European settlement in Zululand. The museum depicts the history of Zululand from the early Iron Age and focuses on the fascinating cross-cultural influences of the past 200 years. An interesting story is that of Hans Schreuder, a Norwegian missionary. Hans had dealings with Zulu king Mpande KaSenzangakhona who at that time was unwell, and as a result of helping the ailing king was allowed to begin teaching Christianity to the people. A first in the region.
The Vukani Zulu Cultural Museum, also within the For Nongqayi complex, houses some of the best Zulu arts and crafts work collected over the years, with several of the artists receiving international recognition for their work. The Vukani Association was formed more than 30 years ago to revive the then-dying art of basketry. Through Vukani, men and women have pooled their inherited knowledge of grasses, palm leaves, natural dyes, beadwork, woodcarving and ceramics to produce a range of contemporary items with a traditional theme which has created a new market for the crafters of Zululand.
There are many insightful opportunities for visitors to experience living Zulu culture at first hand… Zululand Eco-Adventures offers visits to local communities in the area where visitors can experience traditional Zulu hospitality, or a traditional Zulu wedding ceremony, and if you wish, visit a traditional healer. For an urban view of Zulu culture, take a township tour showcasing modern Zulu life including taverns, shebeens and traditional medicine shops.
Another traditional experience is the annual celebration of the Zulu King’s Reed Dance, the uMkhosi woMhlanga, a traditional ceremony of maidens held annually during the first weekend of September. Maidens from all over the province and from as far afield as the Kingdom of Swaziland flock to the eNyokeni Royal Palace to participate in the traditional dance of the maidens. The girls converge in groups from the Zululand regions to the Kings Palace the day before the ceremony. The main attraction of the ceremony is the presentation of reeds to the King. Each maiden is to carry a reed from the river and present it to the King in a spectacular procession at the Palace. Zululand offers opportunities for an authentic insight into the contemporary cultural lifestyle of the average rural Zulu person, to experience village life as happens – a vibrant living culture.
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Within the eMakhosini Ophate Heritage Park is the ‘Valley of the Kings’, the burial places of a number of early Zulu Kings, as well as the ‘Spirit of Emakhosini’ monument. There is also Mgungundlovu, the Royal Residence of King Dingane and kwaMatiwane where Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his men were killed and subsequently buried.