The KwaZulu Cultural Museum, Ulundi
Did you know?
Tasteless traditional Zulu beer is called isalababa, meaning ‘goodbye father', implying that guests must leave their host because his beer cannot be enjoyed.
It is believed that Nomkhubulwana, the Princess of Rain, revealed the secret of traditional beer brewing to the Zulu people, and that white cattle are associated with ancestral spirits, representing purity and fertility. The great empire builder King Shaka banned early marriage to ensure his warriors kept their focus on matters of war, and love letters during courtship took the form of colour symbolism in beadwork.
These are some of the interesting facts the visitor learns at the KwaZulu Cultural Museum in Ondini near Ulundi, which falls into the eMakhosini Valley, the valley of Zulu Kings.
This KwaZulu-Natal cultural museum traces a number of historical themes. In one section it details the early inhabitants of the province, leading up to Shaka and a successor Cetshwayo, followed by the arrival of white settlers and their implications for trade. It also looks at belief systems of the Zulu, and the importance they placed on cattle as a source of wealth. Bringing the story into the present, a display on apartheid laws and their effects is included.
A second section reviews the strict divisions between males and female roles in this patriarchal and polygamous society and how this was reflected in dress, customs and division of labour. A reconstruction of a traditional homestead makes a fascinating display. Other cultural aspects such as the brewing of beer, the manufacture of musical instruments and the significance of beadwork is also covered.
The KwaZulu Cultural Museum is one museum that doesn't freeze the culture it portrays in a timeframe of the past. It examines the Zulu nation of today, and shows the dynamic nature of the Zulu culture as it moves with the times.
Most displays have interactive components, such as toys children can play with, traditional musical instruments to play and the opportunity to try your hand at beadwork.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0) 35 870 2050/1/2
Closed: Christmas Day and Good Friday
How to get here
From Durban take the N2. After Stanger, take the Dokodweni off ramp, so that you are on the R34 that takes you past Melmoth onwards to Vryheid. 25km past Melmoth turn right to Ulundi on the R66. After crossing the White Umfolozi River and passing the Shell Garage on your right, take the turnoff to your right (P700) signposted to the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Airport /Umfolozi Game Reserve. Pass the airport on your right and the Ulundi Battle Memorial on your left. Approximately 5km on you will find the Ondini Cultural Museum
Best time to visit
Balmy KwaZulu-Natal (with the exception of the high-lying Drakensberg) revels in year-round weather.
Around the area
Some other heritage sites in the area include the Anglo-Zulu and (South African (Anglo-Boer) War battlefield sites of Isandlwana, Rorkes Drift and Spioenkop. You will also find the Grave of King Shaka at Dukuza and Mgungundlovu, a reconstruction of the the residence of King Dingaan, in the area, as well as the prehistoric Border Cave. The museum is also close to the the Imfolozi-Hluhluwe Park.
Tours to do
A tour operator that specialises in the area is a good bet, such as Tinta Safaris.
For wider touring of the area, you will need to hire a vehicle, or enlist the use of a tour operator knowledgeable of the area.
What will it cost
R20 adults; R10 children under 12
Length of stay
You will need an hour or two to examine the museum, but if you want to spend longer in the area, allocate 2-3 nights.
What to pack
The usual South African sun protection kit - sunglasses, hat and sun block, and shoes for walking.
Where to stay
The uMuzi Bush Camp offers hut accommodation styled on traditional Zulu architecture, but with modern conveniences. Rates per person sharing are in the region of R550 pp per night.