Materials Used for Zulu Huts

Written by paul cartmell
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Materials Used for Zulu Huts
Traditional Zulu huts use materials readily available for construction. (NA/ Images)

The Zulu people trace their history back to the leader Shaka Zulu, who led the nation on a series of wars that led to the spread of the Zulu across Africa in the 19th century. The Zulu people construct traditional huts called iQukwane from materials collected such as grasses, reeds and trees.


The traditional materials used by the Zulu people to construct a hut include grasses, such as Hyparrhania hirta and black wattle Acacia mearnsii for use as the walls of the hut. The materials used for constructing a traditional iQukwane are tied together using the Natal Fig Ficus natalensis. Each Zulu hut is strengthened and held in place by a central pole constructed from a Rock Alder Canthium mundanium tree trunk placed in the centre of the hut. The floor of the hut is traditionally made from a mixture of cow dung from the cattle traditionally reared by the Zulu and termite mounds. The land around each iQukwane is marked by the placement of a indigenous hedge called a Aloe Arborescens.


The construction of a Zulu hut is traditionally completed by both men and women within the nation, with the men collecting building materials and women completing the construction of each hut. The male members of the Zulu collect the building materials and lay out the wall materials in a circle used for the construction of the beehive shaped hut. The female Zulu then build the walls of the hut and produce thatching materials tied together using strips of Natal Fig bark to complete the roof. Each hut is built with a small door that forces anybody entering to stoop, this is completed as a form of defence against intruders.


Fresh cow dung and termite mounds are combined to produce a solid floor for the hut and to build a hearth in the centre of the building close to the central support pole. Dung and termite mounds are packed tightly together in order to produce a solid floor when the materials dry; the floor and hearth are polished using a stone to produce a highly reflective surface. The materials used in the construction of the hut combine to produce a cool building in the summer and a warm hut in the winter.


The hearth built in the centre of the hut is used to produce heat and energy for heating and cooking food in the building. The smoke from the burning of fuel escapes through the low door and through the natural gaps in the thatched roof of the hut. The smoke acts as a constant fumigator to eliminate any problems with bugs entering and nesting in the natural building materials of the iQukwane.

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