What is a Zulu Shield? Zulu shields have beenaround for hundreds of years.Originally used as aweapon, the Zulu shield isnow used for traditional Zuluceremonies such as weddingsand funerals.There are 5 types of Zulushields that are used fordifferent occasions: theIsihlangu, Umbumbuluzu, Ihubelo, Igqoka and Ihawu.
Materials Zulu shields are made from cowhide and although youcan find shields from other hides such as Zebra andKudu, these shields would not be considered authenticZulu shields.Cowhide color patterns will play a role in who haswhat Zulu shield. The rare large white color shield willbe kept for a Zulu chief or high ranking warriors; whilethe more common black shield would be for a normalZulu warrior. This would help in battle to know whowas in command.
What is it Used for? Zulu shields were originally used in battle. However, inour modern times they are mainly used for traditionalZulu ceremonies; such as weddings and funerals.These Zulu shields are alsooften complemented with anAssegai – a spear like weaponas can be seen in the image tothe right.
Who Uses It? Zulu shields are traditionally used by the Zulu tribe. Itdistinguishes the various ranks of the warriors; and inmodern days it is mainly used as a traditional item forceremonies.
Using a Zulu Shield Zulu shields are mainly usedfor protection. The Zulu warshield should be tall enough tocover the owner’s body and itis in an oval shape that isWithstand any spear from penetrating it. Formaltraining was not in use until King Shaka Zulu tookover the Mthetwa army and revolutionized the Zuluweapons. Before this era the army was only trainedto throw spears, stab and shield.
Symbolic Marks The most important aspects of these Zulu shields aretheir colors and patterns: Large white shields (about 5 ft. in size) were usually reserved for Chiefs. Smaller black or brown shields were used by normal Zulu warriors. Small red shields were used as courting shields, also known as an Ihubelo.
Shields in the Society Today shields play an important role in the Zulusociety as they are seen as traditional warrior items.They are also seen as unique to the Zulu culture and aresold in various traditional shops; especially for tourists.Zulu traditions are still strongly practiced in manytraditional ceremonies amongst the Zulu culture. TheZulu people comprises of almost 8 million people in theKwa-Zulu Natal region in South Africa and theytreasure the use of these shields as a matter ofsymbolism.
Importance of Shields The Zulu shield is a very important traditional item inthe Zulu culture; and they are just as popular today asthey were centuries ago – even though the main use ofthe shield has shifted from a war tool to a traditionalitem used in ceremonies. The Zulu shield are still very much treasured amongst all of the Zulu community and will continue to do so.