Just like the flock of chickens, sadly queuing and waiting to be gruesomely slaughtered in a poultry farm, and be turned into many’s favourite meat and stews. It is like that to these young poor and innocent boys, in the former homeland “Transkei “in the province of the Eastern Cape, yet again facing the renowned “cruel spear”.
Ndiyindoda! (I am a man)...this is what is said by a boy after he has just gone through a sharp cut by the spear. Amazingly, they can all say this but only a few make it to manhood.
Early in the morning, on the day of the circumcision and after they have just had their early breakfast of a semi cooked and non salty sheep meat, the boys go up the frostly hills, accompanied and surrounded by many men singing, dancing and playing with traditional sticks. Women on their side ululating, singing while beating an old oxen skin called “ingqongqo” shouting and saying “uhamb’ubuye nabo! (Go and come back with them)”
On top of the hill the boys sit down, face the men with their legs open waiting ingcibi (a person who performs circumcision). The ikhankatha(nurse) prepare them and ingcibi arrives and make the cut sharply with the spear and thereafter, the boys crawl to the specific made temporal thatched hut specially made for them and they will spend four to five weeks under the care of ikhankatha, battling with the extremely pains of their wounds and the horrifying conditions of the bush.
This happens in mid winter during school holidays in the extremely cold and dry windy conditions. This ritual mainly involves men. Women play a very small role in this and the boy is not even allowed to say his mother’s name as that indicates weakness according to the rules of the tradition.
The boys are not allowed to have water for eight days and they only eat white semi cooked sump and they are not even allowed to bath as they apply traditional white liquid called “ingxwala” in their bodies and always wrap themselves up with their ragged blankets.
Various things happen and various haunting situations emerge such as dehydration, rotting of genitals, and most shocking and scary one DEATH.
When a boy is dead, neither his mother nor his sister is told. They only learn about the death only when other boys come back from the mountain, alive, celebrating and enjoying the ‘manhood status’.
.....currently, this tradition has claimed 30 lives already in the Transkei region as we speak, leaving some with semi or permanently damaged genitals with few graduated to manhood, and this happen year in and year out despite the preventative measures put in place by the government of the province and traditional leaders.
Are we doing enough as a country to curb these deaths? Should we still, even in this century, continue carry on this virtual with this mostly loved and fatal traditional method? Maybe one more question, as we know that not all the boys are straight, some are gays and moffies, is it not a waste of time sending a moffie to the bush as he spends most of his time with girls and other moffies?