Zulu Kraal

  • Anglo-Zulu War
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

A Kraal (the name taken later from Dutch influences), was the Community living space of a typical Zulu Tribe. Known as a Umuzi, these were circular fortifications. Enclosed by wooden trees cut and driven into the ground at heights of 12 to 15 feet tall – these Palisades were often semi-denuded, to provide a form of defensive measure. The size of a Kraal varied. A King or member of Royalty could have an immense Palisade (400 to 500 feet in diameter). The living quarters of the Community was designed to cover a smaller circle within the Kraals perimeter. The largest portion of the Kraal was left open for Cattle. Cattle were considered currency and the more one had – the more important one was! All emphasis was placed on their maintenance. 2 entrances (one primary and a secondary), were placed normally at the farthest point from the most senior member of the Tribe. Zulu Kraals had only one entrance (in or out).

A Gatekeeper (Warrior) was set to guard the entrance. Huts, known as iQukwane – were of a “beehive” shape. Made of thatched wood and reeds, they were reinforced with mud and hardened. This provided insulation (cool in summer, warm in winter). Cooking vents were installed in the top (which could also be closed to keep out rain). Floorings were NOT plain dirt. Royalty had polished and stained wooden floors, while others of lesser Rank had plain wooden planking or reeds. Doorways were made low on purpose. This was so an attacker (or assassin) had to bend VERY low – to enter! The Chief or King had the larger of Huts (with his various Wives, Servants and Military Commanders) – occupying smaller Huts extending outward. At the far end of the Kraal, unmarried women and men were separated and lived near the entrance to the Kraal.

Military Kraals were designed to house Impis (or Zulu Regiments). Without cattle storage, the center of of the Kraal was used as a “Drill Field” of sorts. The Impis Commander had the larger hut (with his subordinate commanders huts arranged behind his. Blacksmiths and weapons makers occupied the next important locations. Finally, smaller “Barracks” were designed to fill in remainder of the perimeter. Capable of housing 25 Warriors each, these did in fact feature dirt floors. A Zulu Warrior slept on a small reed mat (near his weapons).