No short cut to honour

2010-07-24 11:20

At a time when initiation schools are being lambasted for butchering young boys who undergo traditional circumcision, Percy Mabandu has made a strong point against the ­tradition (“A cut above the rest”, City Press, July 18 2010).

He explains that instead of ­going to the mountain, he went to a medical doctor to be circumcised. But, he declares, this did not make him a man. After all, for him the procedure “was merely a hygienic imperative”.

Mabandu opens his article with a somewhat derogatory remark, questioning how anyone “could subject themselves to the hand of a blade-wielding old man in the bush”. Is he insinuating that all traditional ­surgeons are clueless about what they are doing? Does he have an ­issue with age? Is he surprised that many young men go to the ­mountain to undergo traditional ­circumcision?

Well, many are doing exactly that. And it might not be that they are, as could be interpreted from reading between Mabandu’s lines, ­uncivilised or ignorant. Rather, it could be that they are following an ancient tradition.

Let us also not forget that ­circumcision, despite the very ­tragic deaths and illnesses of young boys in Eastern Cape, is safely practised across the ­country and continent.

Mabandu, however, makes an ­important point in stating that few can declare “purity” exists in their ethnic identities. Hybridity, he argues, is not necessarily a loss of ­identity.

I am aware that young men like Mabandu are not necessarily looking for a deeper meaning attached to ­circumcision.But they are puncturing the belief that once you have cut your foreskin, you will ­mystically arise as a “real” man.

However, in this debate, there is a point that is sorely missed. Circumcision, according to ­African traditions, is not an end in itself.

It is rather a custom ­intrinsically bound to a series of comprehensive rites which loses its meaning if it is performed in isolation.

There is a strong need to ­upgrade our notions of ­traditions and cultural rituals. And within Mabandu’s argument is the ­important message that culture is not static.

Rituals must respond to ­relevant needs at a particular time. Ceremonies must be meaningful beyond their ­generational ­continuum.

Young African men, more than ever, need to be part of a process where they leave boyhood ­behind, as there is abundant ­confusion about what African manhood ­constitutes.

A pan-African identity must be promoted within this rite of ­passage. We need sons of the soil who have a sense of ­African self far beyond limiting group ­identities.

Mabandu’s message should not be lost on us. We sometimes ­insist so vehemently on tradition but forget its substance.

We expect lobola to be settled ­before a marriage can be ­accepted but have lost the ability to help the couple to stay ­married. We say that as Africans we hold women in high esteem but ­statistics on rape and abuse tell a different story. African culture is not a celebration of ­attributes. It is a spiritual pact with our ancestors to carry on our ­legacies with pride.

But it also expects us to submit to an order of meaning and ­transformation for the good of our communities. Under this ­order, circumcision cannot be seen as a short cut to manhood.

Graduates from initiation schools must become improved and relevant men – great role models for the next generation.

Buntu is executive ­director of ­Ebukhosini Solutions in Johannesburg and founder of SHABAKA, a ­developmental ­programme for young men

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/World

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.