Tradition and trauma

2009-06-17 00:00

NEGATIVE remarks and media coverage have blemished the Xhosa rite of passage to manhood in recent years and these remarks and publicity have even led people, who do not practise this custom, to dare ask questions and have opinions about something they know nothing about.

From the outset, I’d like to make it clear that I went through this rite of passage over 10 years ago and I respect it.

Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who Is Not A Man tells the story of an initiate who experienced trauma and was loathed by people from his village and labelled a “failed man” after his circumcision went horribly wrong.

Many South Africans who do not practise this custom know the negative side of it because that’s what has been written about in newspapers and shown on television. There is another side to it. The side of pride and honour.

Although thousands of initiates have experienced the same if not similar trauma, this story is not about back door botched circumcisions by inexperienced traditional surgeons that lead to many young Xhosa men having their penises amputated or their limbs not “rising to the occasions” so to speak, because of deformities.

The story is about an initiate who was let down by the custodians of this custom after following proper procedures. The initiate has not only endured ostracism from his fellow villagers but has also been let down by love.

He does not in any way deserve to be judged by Xhosa men or anybody else. He is a man in his own right and his coming out unashamedly about his complicated circumcision will no doubt help those who have experienced similar traumas to heal emotionally and start picking up the pieces of their lives.

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