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The story behind your Nguni hide Back
The story behind your Nguni hide
18 June, 2015

Throughout the ages, Nguni cattle have formed a vital part of the Zulu’s aesthetic and spiritual heritage. The lure and uniqueness of each cow’s skin called for a remarkable cataloging in the tribe’s oral poetry and storytelling.



The metaphorical interaction between the tribe’s natural surroundings and the beauty of Nguni hides led to the formation of over 300 illustrative words. Names are associated with animals, birds, plants and other natural wonders. A creamy, dun coloured hide is called “sour milk” and “the stones of the Ngoye forest” is the name given to a brown or red Nguni with large spots defined by a faint white edging.

Even the cattle’s horns are named – “what stabs the rain” describes the upright points of a young steer’s horns, and “woman who lost her court case” to explain a cow with horns that grow forward, resembling a woman with her hands in the air!

Like our fingerprints, no hide is the same, but patterns can still be earmarked. This ancient tradition of naming has made us fall even more in love with Ngunis at Amatuli. There’s something about a story, or the history of an object that gives it more meaning than money can buy.

Below we have photographed some of the Ngunis we have in store and found their corresponding names in The Abundant Herds – an illustrated book which celebrates and aims to preserve Zulu culture and linguistic creativity.

Zulu name : inasenezimbukane
Meaning : ”flies in the buttermilk“

Zulu name : imaqandakahuye

Meaning : ”the eggs of the lark“


Zulu name : inkorno
Meaning : ” the beast which is houses ” – a hide that looks like the homelands from a distance

This “inkorno” has been branded, showing the mark of ownership.