We all know the tales of great warriors like Spartacus and Julius Caesar, who won massive battles, and whose legacies have lived on through the ages. But in Africa, there was one warrior that fought battles with innovation, skill and strategy like no other. His name was Shaka Zulu.
Meet Shaka Zulu
In 1787 in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Shaka kaSenzangakhona, better known as Shaka Zulu, was born and was destined to become a great leader and warrior. Shaka spent his childhood in his mother’s village where he joined the fighting unit called ibutho lempi of the town. This is where the foundation of Shaka’s leadership and combat skills were set.
A Young Zulu Warrior With A Difference
From a young age, he was trained in the art of war and leadership. Later he served as a warrior under Dingiswayo who was an important Mthethwa chief. As a king in the making, Shaka learned everything he needed to help him create alliances and gain support throughout the kingdom. Unlike the Zulu people who were always to fight, Shaka had a different approach to battles. He used his power to win great battles with little deaths.
Becoming A Zulu King
After the death of his father in 1816, Shaka’s younger, half-brother became king. Shaka wanted to become king, so his mentor Dingiswayo gave him a small army to help him take over the Zulu Kingdom. What followed with a bloodless takeover and Shaka became king from 1816 to 1828. This was a difficult time as it was the beginning of Mfecane, which happened between 1815 and 1840. The Mfecane was a time where there was a massive amount of chaos and war between various tribes in southern Africa. When Shaka Zulu came into power, the Mfecane was just the beginning. As Shaka became more respected, he started to teach the Zulu Kingdom how to take control of other tribes and get more land quickly. During his time as king, he rarely allowed European settlers to enter his territory. But in the 1820s, he allowed Henry Francis Fynn to provide him with medical treatment after his half brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, tried to assassinate him.
The Death of A Great King
Unfortunately, in 1828, Dingane and Mhlangana became successful and assassinated Shaka Zulu. The Zulu King was killed by three assassins who dumped his body in an empty grain pit and filled it with stones and mud in an unknown location.
The Zulu Kingdom Today
You might know the Zulu tribe of South Africa for what they wear and their elaborate dances. The Zulu traditional clothing for men are headpieces, shoulder covers and underwear made of animal skin worn. Zulu women traditionally wear skirts made out of grass or beaded cotton strings. In their traditional attire, both women and men dance and chant to drums made of animal skins. Shaka Zulu legacy lives on especially in the province of KwaZulu-Natal where he was born. In 2004, a 16-hectare theme park was opened and called uShaka Marine World. In 2010 King Shaka International Airport was opened using his name. There are also plenty of books, movies and even a video game made about this great warrior.
If you like the story of Shaka Zulu as much as we do, check out our Shaka Zulu merch.