THE HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF THE ZULU PEOPLE - Onyeji Nnaji
The world of the Bantu travellers shows the walls of the migration that recorded the highest population among the African settlement. Originating from the largest population among the four races that settled in the east before time, all Bantu travellers were pygmies; for that was the nature of the Umudiala, the generation that gave birth to them. The Wikipedia map for Bantu migrations shown below will be of help towards digesting our descriptions of the Bantu people.
Bantu migration was rated the third earliest migration of the Negro race from the east. In this regard, all their movement had involved great population of people compared to the number of people involved in the two earlier populations that gave birth to Ethiopia, Nubia and Egypt: the Walker Traveller, and the Race of Anu. Bantu population as we have identified in the third chapter above outweighs the rest of the population of the ancient fathers that founded many of the nations of antiquity mentioned earlier. Discussing them in beat will pose a little challenge since their migration condition was in chain: one movement connected many other movements. As a result, many Bantu settlers had begun to fashion a place of origin for themselves different from the aboriginal setting from where the Bantu settler had as their original home.
The word, Bantu, was derived from reference to the characteristic lifestyle of the hunters with distinct faces. In those days, the people called Bantu today usually mask their faces with ashes and charcoal to make them look like animals until they get closer and kill them. This masking style made them look like wild animals or monsters. Therefore, the Igbo of the neighborhood referred to them as Ọ bantu, a people who apply ash on the body. The picture below belongs to the Kikuyu Bantu. He is a typical example of Bantu hunters and warriors.
This was the habit they imbibed while they travelled far and wide. It proved true in the languages of some Bantu settlers. For instance, Bantus like Kirundi, Zulu, Xhosa, Runyakitara and Ganda speak of themselves as Abantu. While Gusii and Mpondo call themselves Abanto and Abantru respectively. Each Bantu settlement has a related term as self-identity that describes them as belonging to the Bantu group. We have listed these identity words in chapter three above.
The implication of this situation is that each Bantu settlement would have to trace her origin from the very point where her knowledge of migration ends. Then, to get at the root of the Bantu movement, one would have to trace these end-point roots of different Bantu settlers to the aboriginal take off point. For as the study showed itself obviously, the road from where this population strayed is still obviously pointing towards Nigeria as their ancient home. We have clarified issues concerning the original home of all Bantu in chapter three above.
The first set of Bantu was the Efik. The Efik population had their original home at Nwa Ngene, now one of the Local Government Areas in Imo State, Nigeria. The Efik migration is claimed to have dated 9,000 BC (the truth is yet to be ascertained). Their departure and settlement at Osak Edet (towards the Bakasi peninsula that bounded Nigeria and Cameroon) made that area an outlet for the Bantu populations. Osak Edet is so pronounced because the Efik/Ibibio and Anang language family have no use of the /g/ and /l/ consonants, otherwise the correct words for this new home is Osa Ngele, according to the language user. This was their later way of expressing their "Oso Ngele" hobo. Even Efik is rightly pronounce as Efk.
Researching in the Niger region in the days of the Christian Missionaries, Dr. W. B. Baikie who wrote in 1854 noted that “All the coast dialects from Oru to Old Calabar are either directly or indirectly connected with Igbo”. He further asserted that the Igbo are “separated from the sea by petty tribes all of which trace their origin to this great race”, the Igbo. Major A. G. Leonard, writing in 1906, recorded that it was the view of missionaries and travelers in these parts that people around the coastal regions are all Igbo.
Comparing the language as it is spoken in all of these different localities, the dialectical variations are not very marked, the purest dialect being spoken, as already pointed out, in Isuania and neighbourhood, while the most pronounced difference is to be found between the Niger dialect, especially that which is spoken right on the river or on its western bank, and that of the more eastern sections, which lie nearer to the Cross river and in proximity to the Ibibio. It has been suggested by missionaries and travellers that the languages spoken by the Ibibio, Efik, Andoni, and others have all been derived from Ibo at some ancient period; also that there is a distinct dialectical affinity between the Ijo dialects of Oru, Brass, Ibani, and New Calabar, and the Isuama dialect of Ibo. (Lower Niger, 43).
These were the linguistic evidence to this great migration out of the east. It was about that same period that the population that peopled the present day Cameroon parted; moving further afield, they settled at the present day Cameroon. The movement of the Bantu travellers is shown on the map below.
Number one shows the place of the genesis, at the eastern region of the present day Nigeria. We have the route labeled 2a and 2b; they are indications of the route that founded Cameroon and the equatorial Africa as shown through the arrows of 2b and 2a respectively. Both 2a and 2b showed routes that located Equatorial Africa from where the rest of the Bantu dispersed. There is a unique arrow that locates a different direction, this arrow located Nubia where some population strayed to. Detail is discussed in the succeeding subheadings.
All the far Bantu travellers converged at Equatorial Guinie. From there they furthered their tour to the place where they lived today. The map of these later tours is shown below.
Issues concerning the later movements to their permanent settlements are discussed below in line with the respective community of Bantus involved at each time.
(1) The Zulu Nation
Zulu recorded the largest Bantu settlement among the Bantu family. They were made consolidated through their common goal intention and the determination to remain as a people. From their collective characterizations, it was apparent that the Zulu Bantu may have had one ancestor in terms of their consanguinity. They did things together and championed one course in their heydays. Unlike the Efik community whose origin was very precise and still within memory, no one can fathom from which part of the Umudiala they had travelled. But on the significant note, the Zulu did not take the same route with the rest of the Bantu travellers. They took a different direction. Therefore, rather than take part in the central community of Bantus in Equatorial plane, the Zulu travelled differently and far enough to the hills of the Nile plane and settled in the Nubia community. Zulu was the only Bantu travellers who were able to get to the Nile region at the earliest time when Nubia was yet to experience her ancient civilization.
Zulu arrived the Nile region when Egypt conquered Nubia. Nubian civilization embraced its untimely drop-down following the defeat of the government in the days of Pharaoh Snefru(c. 2575 BC). About the same period, Zulu entered Nubia and travelled southward to their present home in South Africa when the civilization has finally ended with the further defeat of the kingdom by the Ezana led warriors. By the time they arrived South Africa, the Bush men had already settled. At that time, Zulu never had a particular name for that set of Bantu. Although several evidences abound that proved them of having come from the same family line. The picture below shows the Zulu soldiers.
The term Zulu, which later became the identity lexicon for a nation of people, came from a unanimous concept which served as the conglomeration word for the race that gave birth to all Bantu. Of course, it stands the most credible pointer to their place of origin and marked them as belonging to a sect before the evil days of hobo for the Zulu Bantu – the time when Nubia had never been overtaken by the Pharaohs of Egypt – the word, Zúlú was originally used to summon the Zulu Bantus in Nubia together whenever there were things to be discussed that were in the interest of the community. Of course, the ordinary meaning derived from its translation in the Igbo language is to gather. According to its earliest purpose, it was a verb translated to mean “gather or come together”. Another useful pointer to the trace of the origin of the Zulu is on the way the Zulu refer to their clans. According to the Zulu’s oral tradition,
Zulu's descendants, the Ama Zulu, settled in the White Umfolozi valley under the chieftainship of Zulu's great-grandson Ndaba kaPhunga - The Man of Affairs. The Zulu continued to live a peaceful existence when the mantle of leadership was passed to Jama - He of the Stern Countenance - even though crucial power struggles were developing all around them as paramount chiefs dreamed of statehood.
The Zulu clans till date are referred to as Ama Zulu. Among the Igbo, Ama is a prefix used to introduce people and places. In the North-eastern Igbo land, we have AmaNgwu, AmaOkwe, AmaAgu, AmaEke, Amanze and other places referred thus. Generally, in the Igbo settlement, Ama is used alternatively with Umu. Where Umu is used to draw reference the descendants of a particular ancestor who, perhaps, founded the place, Ama is used in reference to the possible things – say topography, nature course, popular tree, legendary river, mystic geometry etc. – that led to the settlement of such an Igbo community or that is prominent in the area. In the case of the Zulu having her name as the root word to the prefix, Ama, it is simply to reiterate the cognate of familial consanguinity as a people.
The possible proof which the Zulu Bantu could give to their origin revolves around the name Nguni whom they have always explained as their ancestor. For so reasoned, the Zulu refer to themselves as the Nguni people. But Nguni was never the Zulu ancestor; nevertheless, he fathered many of the Zulu population as one of the earliest man, at least since their departure from Nubia. Named after the charismatic figure who in a previous epoch had led a migration from Nubia, he became the only ancestor known to the Zulu whom they could concretely speak of while mentioning ancestors.
Even hitherto, Nguni remains the mystical figure among Zulu storytellers to the present day. More significantly, he was the initiator of the movement out of Nubia and reckoned prominently with the consistent use of the word, Zulu, whenever it was necessary for any information to be related. Therefore, after him, the word remains memorable like a totemic instinct among the population. Meanwhile, they referred to themselves as the descendants of Nguni. According to oral sources, “There was however, no central authority at that time, nor was there even a clan called Zulu among those who constituted the Nguni people.”
The statehood of Zulu at that time was clan oriented. The different family lines that could recognize themselves saw reasons for togetherness. As they form their circle, each clan was headed by its prominent man. The conglomeration of the different sections of the Zulu Bantus led to the actualization of the Zulu state led by Ndaba kaPhunga, according to the Zulu oral tradition. That was the condition until the days of Senzangakhona. What stood between the Ndwandwe and total dominance of the entire region between Phongolo and Thukela Rivers used to be the small Zulu state under its new leader, the illegitimate son of Senzangakhona and Nandi, King Shaka with whom Zulu emerged an empire.
Shaka conquered the entire clans of the Zulu Bantu and extended his territory beyond the Zulu boundaries. Nandi (Shaka’s mother) had conceived before official recognition as the chief's wife, and her obvious pregnancy was unconvincingly dismissed as affliction by an intestinal beetle known in Zulu medical circles as “shaka”. That was how he got his name upon his birth in 1787.
For this reason, his father's eldest son from the other woman denied Shaka heir to the Zulu throne. But when Shaka had orchestrated the murder of his younger brother and legitimate heir to the Zulu throne, Dingiswayo sent a military force to assist Shaka seize the chieftainship. The young leader justified his overlord's patronage with regional military successes against the Mthethwa's enemies, but when that state was overrun and Dingiswayo assassinated, Shaka Zulu found himself the sole object of Ndwandwe battle plans.
Shaka did not allow Europeans entry into Zulu as he had fought them relentlessly. But, after the conspiracy that led to his injury, he gave them a trial opportunity to prove the efficacy of the Whiteman’s medicine. When Shaka died in 1828, Europeans beclouded his subjects and forced them into imperialism.