The Zulu are a tribe in the Natal province of South Africa. They have a population of about three million. They are known for their beadwork and basketry. Colours represent different things to the Zulu people, and they use them symbolically in their art and fashion. The Zulu flag is blue, yellow, red and black. Each colour has a positive and negative meaning attached to it.
Black represents marriage and regeneration. However it can also represent sorrow and death. Black is often worn with other colours as a symbol of unity.
Blue represents fidelity or favours. The negative side of blue is ill will and hostility. Blue bowls and ceramics are popular and symbolise the taking in of new opportunities.
Yellow is popular among the Zulu and represents wealth, gardens and fertility. It can conversely represent thirst, negativity and the death of crops. Yellow and blue are often used together. Yellow bead necklaces are hung in gardens or worn by those tending to the crops.
Green represents contentment and a happy home life. It can also be used to represent illness and chaos. Green is an important colour for the Zulu and often used in tribal ceremony. Green leaves and stalks adorn the body and incorporated as part of dance rituals.
Pink is a spiritual colour that can mean a high rank or important birth. It may also mean an oath or promise. If used in a negative way, it means poverty or laziness. Pink is often used in bead work with other colours and almost never worn alone. A high-ranking female in the tribe may wear a combination of white and pink jewellery.
Red is a primal colour among the Zulu and means physical love and strong emotion. It can also mean anger, heartache or impatience. Warriors paint dashes of red paint on their bodies before entering battle.
White is a revered spiritual colour that only represents good things. It means spiritual love, purity and symbolises virginity. The colour white is often worn by the medicine men of the tribe.
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- Art and Life in Africa Online: Zulu Information
- Zulu Land: About Zulu Kingdom
- Eloquent Elegance; Beadwork in the ZULU Cultural Tradition; H. Stan Schoeman; 1996
- "From Afar to Zulu: A Dictionary of African Cultures;" Jim Haskins and Joann Biondi; 1998
- "Ukucwebezela: to Shine -- Contemporary Zulu Ceramics;" Elizabeth Perrill; 2008