Mannie (45) is now a Xhosa man

2012-01-28 19:29

Seeking an understanding of what it takes and means to become a Xhosa man, 45-year-old Mannie Joeireiro underwent the traditional rite of passage in the small town of Centane, outside Butterworth.

Construction site foreman Joeireiro set tongues wagging in the town when he embarked on his journey by being circumcised by a local traditional surgeon on January 14.

As a result, elders in the town paid daily visits to the Bhoma (traditional hut), on the outskirts of the town that was Joeireiro’s home for the following 10 days.

When City Press visited the area this week, his hut had already been destroyed, and he was back home while preparations are being made for his mgidi (homecoming) ceremony, which is scheduled for next weekend.

He was excited about completing the rite of passage, saying it was something he had thought about undergoing since he arrived in the town as part of an RDP housing project three years ago.

“How do you understand a man if you do not understand his culture? I found myself among the Xhosa and I really consider myself one of them now . . . I remember some of the elders thought I was joking, but here I am,” he said.

During the interview the krwala (name given to new men) was already dressed in his “new man” attire which consists of a cap, formal shirt, and a work suit.

He also carried his mnqayi (walking stick) and his face and hands were covered in isbindi, a paste made out of tree bark which is applied to the skin to signify the new status, but it also acts as a natural skin cleanser and sunscreen.

During his 10 days in ehlathini (wilderness) Mannie was looked after by two circumcised men, known as amakhankatha, who changed the natural dressing for his wound and taught him about manhood.

These lessons were supplemented by visits from the elders of the area, who also shared their experiences.

“What always interested me was the traditional and cultural side of the process, and I now have a better understanding of this. I won’t lie it was tough and there was lots of pain,” he said.

Does he now regard himself as a fully fledged man, whereas he wasn’t before? “Its a tough question because if one undergoes circumcision at the age of 13 does that make him a man? Manhood is obtained naturally, but the knowledge of manhood is what one learns from such an experience.”

Originally Joeireiro’s father came from Portugal, but he was born in KwaZulu-Natal before moving to the Eastern Cape.

His father now runs a supermarket in Amalinda in East London, but he was not told of his son’s decision.

Andile Jack, who works on the same construction site as the former initiate, said: “It’s something we appreciate especially since he did not take any short-cuts as some would nowadays. He had enough faith when we told him everything would be fine.”

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