The Influence of Social, Political, and Economic Factors on the Development and Form of Zulu Religious Activity in the 19th and 20th Centuries

By Melissa JL. Alvaro Mutolo
2011, Vol. 3 No. 07 | pg. 2/2 |

Next it is worth discussing the African phenomenon of ngoma, a combination of therapeutic network building, divination and healing. It is way of dealing with hardship, adversity and tribulation (Janzen 1992:35-36). It is little wonder then, that given the occurrences of the last two centuries, ngoma has become a crucial p of Zulu indigenous . It is worth noting that in ngoma is more unitary in its organisation than in Central Africa (Janzen 1992:35-36). As previously mentioned, in South Africa traditional social systems were disrupted and families torn apart. Thus ngoma adapted to provide society with what it was lacking. One can also observe the different ethnic groups involved in ngoma (Janzen 1992:51) and link this to the situation in townships where different ethnic groups were forced to co-habit and faced equal under the all-encompassing term ‘bantu’. Furthermore ngoma initiates could not go into continuous seclusion and ritual matters had to be dealt with in evenings and weekends because in urban South Africa work was an inescapable priority (Janzen 1992:52). This is evidence of ritual being adapting to suit circumstances. Other aspects of indigenous religion took on new meaning such as the ingoma dances which came to express ‘ the most deep seated desires of the expelled, dehumanised and dispossessed black masses’ by embodying the warrior spirit of Zulu past (Erlmann in maylam and Edwards 1997:87 cited by Gunner 2002:30). A further example can be found in the addition of indiki to the Zulu spiritual repertoire. The Indiki were understood to be the spirits of migrants who passed away without returning to their native lands and thus were left to roam unattached to their ancestors (Kiernan 1995:80). Kiernan further points out the connection between increased interaction with foreigners (and the chaos this brought for the Zulu) and the of indiki. This is an example of Zulu indigenous religion responding to changing conditions by developing new ideas. Like the birth of new religious movements, the transformation of older activity was concrete way of expressing wishes, hopes, fears and most importantly a way to process and make sense of the changes that had occurred. The indigenous Zulu religious system continues to provide a foundation for Zulu Life (Lawson 1984:49).

One can see that religion provides context and a means for living in and thinking about the natural and social worlds (Lawson 1984:49). In the case of the Zulu, Religion has provided them with a means of understanding hardship and managing change (Ellis and Ter Haar 2004:172).Whatever the future holds for this resilient community one can thing be certain, that Religion will continue to transform and adapt to suit social, political and cultural change. One can only hope that the future that awaits them is brighter than the past. After allthere is another proverb that says ‘akulanga lashona lingendaba- no sun sets without its histories’ (Eatoni Ergonomics, 2008).


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