Zulu Love Letter
[ Issue 18 ]

Zulu Love Letter intrigues Emily Bronto

Let Bikwil introduce you to Zulu Love Letter

Zulu Love Letter

Giorni has visited many countries.  Here he describes a charming African custom of messages in beads.

In other words, Zulu love letters.

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Zulu Love Letter — Giorni


During a visit in 1996 to Zululand (a province of The Republic of South Africa) I came across this lovely Zulu love letter entitled iNcwadi (pronounced “I—en—che –wadi”).

I have turned pitch black as the rafters of the hut because I miss you,
If I were a dove I would fly to your home and pick up food at your door.
I have become thin like the sweet cane in a damp field
And green as the first shoots of trees because of my love for you.

According to folklore, this was a message given by a maiden to her lover, not in written form, but made from stringing coloured beads in a set pattern. In the past — i.e. pre European influence — seeds would have been used and painted with natural colours (clay, ochre, plant extract, etc.). Today coloured glass or plastic beads are used.

The story goes that each colour represents a different message. For example:

I have turned pitch black . . .
If I were a dove . . .
I have become thin . . .
My heart bleeds and is full of love

The other colours are White, Yellow and Pink, each with its own particular meaning.

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