Don’t cut custom

2010-07-24 12:30

I was not surprised that Percy Mabandu describes the traditional African passage from boyhood to manhood as merely going through “the hand of a blade-wielding old man in the bush”.

In “A cut above the rest” (City Press, July 19), Mabandu, who claims to be living a “post-tribal and neo-ethnic” life, writes provocatively that circumcision is part of “mobile ­hybridities of earlier identities”.

He should tell that to the young men from my village in Sekhukhune, Limpopo, who have just returned from the mountain.

In my village, mashoboro (Pedi for men who’ve not been to the mountain) are not allowed to even talk about the ritual.

The offence of talking about it is comparable to the depiction of the prophet Muhammad.

So, why am I not surprised that Mabandu sneers at the tradition the way he does? Well, by his own ­admission, he didn’t feel more of a man upon his ­return from the surgery. That is precisely because a doctor’s surgery is not the place to turn boys into men.

People in urban areas and other places where the ­institution of traditional leadership is weak or non-existent may never appreciate what the mountain school is meant to achieve.

Its purpose is not merely to circumcise boys. It goes further than that.

Traditional African ­circumcision (known in ­Sepedi as koma) is a preparatory school for the ultimate integration of youth into adulthood; more specifically to prepare one for marriage and reproduction.

A proper and legitimate circumcision school has the blessings of the ancestors and is run by experienced traditional surgeons, most of whom are recognised ­traditional doctors.

Deaths of initiates at legitimate mountain schools are rare occurrences.

The mountain school teaches you various lessons, including those for a man as the head of a family and the responsibilities that come with that role.

The other lessons would be hard to comprehend (and impossible to live by) for dudes in the townships and suburbs.

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