The Culture Junkie
Thoko Jili

Thoko Jili


"We have everything here in KwaZulu-Natal, from the beach to safari to the Drakensberg"

"We have everything here in KwaZulu-Natal, from the beach to safari to the Drakensberg"

Hi Thoko. Where does your Zulu culture tour take us?

To a village called Maphepetheni in an area called the Valley of a Thousand Hills. You will fall in love with it. It’s not staged in any way; people are living 100% authentic lives. When we make friends, support the locals and are respectful, the people are very happy. They’ll cook for you, sing for you, and recite poetry for you. I’m excited to share these stories and my roots.

What does it mean to be Zulu?

There are no people as warm as the Zulu people in the whole world. We’re brave people — warriors — and we love our culture. Come sit down with us! There are some 11 million Zulu-speaking people across South Africa, with most of them in KwaZulu-Natal — which means ‘the place of the Zulus’.

How do Zulus worship in this area?

Our ancestors are very important: to us, the dead are still people. Zulu’s believe in God and the Christian faith, but feel that they can communicate better with Him via those spirits close to them. They believe in worshipping in the open air. In every village there is a shembe temple, which is a ring of stones. You must take your shoes off to enter, and men and women will sit separately. Often, white outfits are worn to represent purity.

What can visitor expect to eat?

A traditional lunch might consist of ujeque, which is steamed bread made out of soft corn; seasonal vegetables; and village chicken — which can be tough. This is why Africans have strong teeth! And the traditional beer, umqombothi. It takes three days to brew, and its important that the host drinks first to show it’s not poisoned.

What do you wish people knew about your home?

People know less about us in KwaZulu-Natal than they should. We have everything, from the beach to safari to the Drakensberg — and it’s still so authentic. There are memories to be made here.

Read the Meet Your South Africa magazine here

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