On Meeting Mr. Joseph Ngubane at PheZulu in Durban, South Africa

The entrance to PheZulu park.

The entrance to PheZulu park.

For the last few years, my partner has been talking about wanting to get a Zulu iklwa (the sound it makes entering the enemy). It’s basically a spear with a tip that’s about half the length. The problem is that he really wanted to find one made by a Zulu instead of buying some crap online.

We originally wanted to drive up to Zululand from Durban …. but then we realized that it’s a 4 hour drive. Then we thought we’d go out to the Zulu resort which was about an hour and a half away …  until we read the reviews online. We settled on PheZulu because it was only 35 minutes away from Durban, the entry price was cheaper and the reviews were better.

The drive over from La Lucia wasn’t bad, but we did have to stop and ask for directions. On the website it says:

– Take N3 toll road to Pietermaritzburg.
– Go through the Marianhill toll plaza.
– The first off ramp left – Assagay/Shongweni/Hillcrest, take this off ramp.
– At STOP street turn right into Kassier Road over N3 freeway ± 5km.
– At T-Junction (Set of robots) turn left, this is Old Main Road (R103) ± 7km.
– Phezulu is on your right hand side.

This didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us so we stopped and asked for directions. What we did was:

  • Take N3 toll road to Pietermaritzburg
  • Go through the Marianhill toll plaza (though it can be easily avoided as we discovered on the dive back)
  • The the Assagay exit and turn right
  • Continue straight all the until the stop lights at the T-junction at Old Main Rd  (you cannot go forward, you have to turn) and make a left
  • Continue straight all the way until you see the the archway for PheZulu on the right.

It’s pretty straight forward, I think the difference in language is what threw us off. Enter through the archway and park near the curio shop. This is where you buy your tickets and enter the “village” to watch the show. We arrived around 2pm and the next show didn’t start until 3:30pm so we had a bit of time to kill.

SA-Durban-PheZulu-Shay-Alligator-Photo-2015We walked over to the alligator and took silly photos dangling from the alligator’s mouth. Then we made our way over to the shield making building. There was a young man out dying sticks for the shields and an older man inside. The younger man suggested that we enter and talk with the older man. The older man was very nice and talked with us a little about the shields and how he learned to make them. He was now teaching the younger men the art. We thanked him and walked back to the curio shop to pick up some odds and ends.

A piece of the article about Joseph hanging up at PheZulu.

A piece of the article about Joseph hanging up at PheZulu.

On the way in, I noticed a map of the park with a few things posted on it so I checked it out and … the older gentleman we met was featured in an article. The article talked about how he learned to make shields as a kid. He said that back then, everyone learned. That’s just how it was. He lamented the fact that younger people didn’t know how to continue passing along those skills and was proud to have two apprentices at the park.

We had already purchased a Zulu shield for a toddler, an assagi and the headband.We were hoping to purchase an iklwa as well but we didn’t see one in the curio shop and they didn’t seem to be making any.

We continued into the store and took a look at ostrich eggs, jewelry, magnets and other items for sale. I bought


The grey and white toddler-sized Zulu shield and wooden assagi we bought on Umgeni Road.

my shield on Umgeni Road around the corner from the Kwa Muhle Musem in Durban and I wanted to see if I paid a fair price for it. My grey and white toddler sized shied cost R280 (about $25). The ones at the park were about R150 for a smaller size and I didn’t see the toddler size. I paid R60 for the headband and the park charged R150 for it.

After walking around, buying a few things and dropping them off at the car it was time to watch the show. We returned to the curio shop and waited in the little vestibule of old Zulu life. Just then, a little white boy with no shoes and dirty feet walked in, looked at us and opened the door to go into the show area. We just looked at him. A man walked in, saw the white boy, asked him to close the door and went about his business.

Hmmmm …

After a few more minutes we were invited into the “village” to hear a story. A woman with a park jacket on welcomed us in Zulu and my partner caught on lightening fast. He was able to repeat the greeting and she looked pleased. The rest of us just looked on. Lol The story was about a girl and a boy that got married. There was singing and dancing. The dancers weren’t that enthused about the performance, but they seemed to be having a good time about midway into it due to them laughing and teasing each other. When it was over, they asked for tips. I thought they owned the parka dn we just paid to get in so I was a bit confused. We gave R10 and kept it pushing. We went into the house up the walkway from the performance area and were given a brief talk about village life back in the 1800s.

Since we had a toddler with us, they wanted to kiss and hug him. When they say South Africans love kids, they are NOT playing. From kids to adults, from thugs to business owners from Black to Asian everyone wanted to play with him. Lol

We exited back into the curio shop and asked if they had an iklwa. The man wasn’t sure, but there was one hanging up on a wall. Yay! We asked how much and he quoted R1,00. He seemed reluctant to hand it to us, but eventually he handed it over. It had a blond wood handle and a long blade. YES! We noticed that it had a tag: R800 ($61)! Whoo hoo!

Mr. Joseph Ngubane and the iklwa he made (the tip is wrapped for shipping) in the shield making shop at PheZulu.

Mr. Joseph Ngubane and the iklwa he made (the tip is wrapped for shipping) in the shield making shop at PheZulu.

We asked if it was made on site and he said, “Yes”. We were so excited! Not only did we find an iklwa, but we found it made by Zulu people (I thought we might end up with something made in China) AND we met the guy that made it! We rushed back to the shield shop (they were closing up) and asked if Mr. Ngubane would take a photo for us. He was gracious enough to do so.

I asked the guy at the curio shop if they owned the park and he almost laughed out loud. No, the Zulu did not own the park.I’m thinking of sending Me. Ngubane a thank you note with a photo of us and a few dollars. It’s his hard work that we are cherishing back home in the US and he should be paid for his work. It was a pleasure to meet him and I wish him well in the future.





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