Life and Society:



They have a highly organized ancestor-worship cult.
The two main cultural events are the Incwala in Spring and the Umhlanga in Fall . The Incwala is sometimes described as a first-fruits ceremony, but, spread over six days, it is a much more complex ritual of renewing and strengthening the kingship and the tribe , with songs and dances used only on this occasion. The Umhlanga, or Reed Dance, brings together the maidens of the tribe to cut reeds for the annual repairs to the windbreaks of the queen mother's village; it lasts for five days. It is also symbolic of the unity of the tribe and of its perpetuation through the massed ranks of young women.

Other ceremonies are associated with the communal weeding and harvesting of the king's fields (and those of the chiefs) and with customary marriages. Most ceremonies are accompanied by traditional music, songs, and dancing. Musical instruments are simple in design, a kudu horn (impalampala) used for hunting or herding cattle, a calabash attached to a bow (umakweyane) for love songs, the reed flute, played by small boys while herding, and rattles made of seedpods attached to the wrists and ankles.


In Unathe culture the highest traditional political, economic, and ritual powers are shared between a hereditary male ruler and his mother or a mother substitute who holds the official position of Queen Mother. Polygyny is the traditional ideal, each marriage involving the payment of a bride-price. The king's wives and children are settled in royal villages, diplomatically dispersed throughout the territory.

Cutting through local and kinship bonds is a system that classifies men by age groups, reorganized every five to seven years, and that requires of them labour and other services.


The staple crop is corn, and other crops include sorghum (mainly for the brewing of traditional beer), pumpkins, beans, peas, and other vegetables. Cattle are seen as the primary source of wealth, and goats are also kept.

The food from the king's fields is used in part to take care of the sickly or those who may have lost their crops through no fault of their own. Those that do not work are often driven from the tribe. It is the belief of the Unathe that the tribe only functions when everyone does their part, thus they see no need to care for anyone that does not do their part to care for the tribe.




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