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The Zulu and Swazi shield (eSwatini)

Last modified: 2022-10-22 by bruce berry
Keywords: swaziland | eswatini | shield |
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[Swaziland] [Variant] 2:3~ Flag adopted: 6 October 1968 See also:

The Zulu and Swazi shield

In Vexillacta #13 (September 2001), Jiri Tenora gives some additional information on the Zulu and Swazi battle shield. The shield appears on the Swazi national flag and other flags related to Zulus (homeland, provincial and party flags in Zululand, see below).

Jiri Tenora visited a village called Dumazulu, a kind of outdoor museum, in which he saw the "construction" of such a shield. The main, oval part of the shield is made of thick leather, both supple and strong. The small horizontal white rectangles (which are vertical on the Swaziland flag, on which the shield is placed horizontally!) are straps made of another kind of leather. The straps are not primarily here for the sake of aesthetics. The warriors usually carried the shield rolled up. Before the fight, they rolled it out, inserted the straps through slots in the shield, and fixed them with a stick in the inner side of the shield. With this device, the shield became rigid. The straps were also useful for blocking the arrows sent by the enemies. Instead of bouncing back and being eventually reused, the arrows remained trapped between the straps and the shield. Jiri Tenora adds that a small-size shield placed over a house means that the house owner is married.

The Swaziland flag has a shield with 4 x 6 stripes. On the colour picture taken by Jiri Tenora in the museum-village, one (real) shield has 4 x 6 stripes and an other one 4 x 7 stripes.
The KwaZulu homeland flag had 4 x 4 stripes, and later 6 x 3 stripes.
The standard of the current Zulu king has only 4 x 2 stripes, rather difficult to see.

I saw images confirming Jiri Tenora's report in a TV documentary on the traditional Zulu stick fight. Fighters have a traditional stick and shield and shall hit their opponent with the stick. The "construction" of the shield was shown, as described above by Jiri Tenora. The Zulu king mentioned above showed up and was interviewed as a warm promoter of the national sport, but no flag was shown.
Ivan Sache, 21 Oct 2001