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The Zulu are one of the main Bantu-speaking peoples of Africa. About seven million Zulu live in the Republic of South Africa, mostly in the province of Natal. They make up the largest language group in that country. Many Zulu live in urban areas. Others live in the province of Natal. For many years, the Zulu and other black South Africans have suffered severe discrimination at the hands of South African whites.

During the 1800 s a Zulu king named Shaka led his nation in a series of military conquests. In 1838, the Zulu clashed with invading white settlers called Boers. The Zulu remained independent until the British conquered them in 1879. Before the British conquest, the Zulu were farmers and cattle herders. They lived in cone-shaped houses made of finely matted reeds and straw. They arranged these houses in circles to form villages. The Zulu had a powerful monarch and a well-disciplined army.

Zulu men have traditionally practiced polygyny, the custom of having more than one wife at a time. A traditional Zulu family consists of a man, his wives, his unmarried children, and his married sons and their wives and children. In urban areas, however polygyny is becoming rare, and most families are much smaller.

Since the mid-1980 s, conflicts between the Zulu and another black ethnic group, the Xhosa, have led to much violence and thousands of deaths in South Africa. Much of the fighting has occurred between members of the Inkatha Freedom Party, most of whom are Zulu, and supporters of the African National Congress, many of whom are Xhosa. Many people believe the Inkatha group represents a revival of Zulu nationalism.


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