Zulu maidens prepare to celebrate the first fruits ritual. Zulu maidens prepare to celebrate the first fruits ritual.

At the traditional Zulu first fruit rituals, the Zulu king, other royalty, and the rest of the tribe celebrate the harvest, praise the ancestors, and discuss ways to ensure a prosperous year.

Did you know?

Harvest festivals occur across South Africa. The Swazi refer to it as the incwala festival, Sotho and Tsonga people know the event as loma and Venda people as the vuola.

 

The traditional Zulu first fruit ritual is an annual harvest celebration known as the Umkhosi Wokweshwama ceremony.

During the ceremony, the Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini, is the first person in the nation to sample the new season's crop. A person who eats the new crop before the king is considered to have violated the dignity and respect owed to the monarch and the tribal ancestors.

The Zulu first fruit ceremony is held when the new season's crops ripen in December or early January. The ceremony takes place at Enyokeni Royal Palace, Nongoma, Zululand, and the exact date is subject to the Zulu king's discretion.

The royal tasting happens in a ritualised manner, involving the use of special medicines created by the King's herbalists and is intended to impart the blessings of the ancestors to the harvest and the farmers.

During this event, young men participate in a series of rituals aimed at providing the Zulu nation with good fortune in the year ahead. Praise singers perform, and the Zulu monarch uses the occasion to talk to his people about pressing social issues such as HIV/Aids and poverty alleviation.

The Zulu first fruit celebrations are of great traditional importance but travellers may respectfully observe proceedings. Zululand Eco-Adventures offer guided packages to watch the event.

If you miss the first fruit ritual but are interested in Zulu eco-epicurean events, contact Dr Elliot Ndlovu from the Kwa-Malulekoes Indigenous Herb Garden and Cultural Centre. He offers village tours that include meals. Those needing pampering should also know that Dr Ndlovu works closely with the Fordoun Spa where indigenous vegetables and traditional Zulu dishes feature regularly on the menu.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal
Tel: +27 (0)31 366 7500
Fax: +27 (0)31 305 6693
Email: kznta@iafrica.com

Zululand Eco-Adventures
Eshowe, Zululand
Tel: +27 (0)35 474 4919
Email: info@eshowe.com

Kwa-Malulekoes Indigenous
Herb Garden and Cultural Centre

Tel: +27 (0)33 267 7380
Email: malulek@lantic.net

How to get here

The closest international airport is in Durban and Zululand is easily accessible by road from there.

Best time to visit

The Zulu first fruit rituals generally take place between December and January. Liaise with your tour guide for the exact date.

Around the area

eMakhosini Valley of the Kings is a famous burial site of several Zulu kings, including Shaka Zulu. Go on safari in Zululand's many game reserves, visit indigenous forests, and go birding.

Tours to do

Kwa-Malulekoes Indigenous Herb Garden and Cultural Centre offers a Zulu village tour. There are numerous Zululand cultural villages to visit should you wish to extend your knowledge of Zulu culture.

Get around

Self-drive to Zululand, and from there travel to the ceremony with your tour operator.

What to pack

KwaZulu-Natal is warm and sunny most of the year. Good sun protection is recommended.

What to eat

Zulu classics include amasi (soured milk) and mageu (a non-dairy, non-alcoholic fermented maize drink).

Best buys

Zulu crafters are renowned for their basket-work, beading and pottery.

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