The Ishlangu was an oval-shaped shield made from a single piece of oxhide attached to a wooden spine. It was prepared by scraping, cleaning, and several days burial in soil or manure.
The colors of an Ishlangu determined the rank of the Zulu. Black shields were for young and unmarried men, red were for married men, and white markings would be added to the shields to confirm a higher rank and experience.
- Mid Range
- Length: 4 feet
- Weight: 3 lbs
- Material: Wood & Ox-hide
The Ishlangu was designed to take glancing blows, deflecting an opponent's weapon rather than try to block it head on. Shaka taught the Zulu to use their Ishlangu to hook an opponent's shield out of the way, exposing the ribs to a strike by the Iklwa. When approaching their opponents, the Zulu beat their shields with the butts of their spears as a form of psychological warfare. Originally Zulu warriors did not use firearms, believeing their speed and shields would be enough to overcome the slow reloading muskets, and the shield could deflect musket fire. However, by the time of the Anglo-Zulu was the cartridge based firearm proved more than capable of going through the shield.