The Wound

A scene in The Wound. (NuMetro)
A scene in The Wound. (NuMetro)

What it's about:

Xolani, a lonely factory worker, joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best kept secret, Xolani's entire existence begins to unravel.

What we thought:

The level of contempt and invasive disregard for the sacred Xhosa tradition of ulwaluko (the rite of passage to manhood) displayed in The Wound leaves much to be desired. 

For someone who understands the sensitivity of the rituals surrounding this custom it’s quite astonishing to see fellow Xhosa men and especially elderly men participate in this exercise which is essentially a spit in the face of those that hold the culture sacrosanct.

Even young Xhosa boys know that what happens in the “mountain” is meant to stay there and there are reasons for that, which I will not get into on this platform because I appreciate the need to persevere and protect my culture. This is something that the Xhosa men who participated in the making of this movie irrespective of age seem to have total disregard of this significance.

Don’t get me wrong, the film is brilliant. Bongile Mantsai’s portrayal of a traditional nurse (which for some reason on the movie is translated to “caregiver”) called “Vija” is something to behold. The way that he is able to depict this character’s macho demeanour who is married with one child and also happens to be struggling financially to take care of his family really sets the plot for a combustible storyline. In addition, Vija is also having a homosexual affair with another traditional nurse, Xolani, portrayed by Nakhane Touré. 

Without giving much away, things get very interesting when an initiate under Xolani’s care, Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini) finds out about this affair and threatens to expose this big secret.

In the scheme of things, it’s not surprising that the film has received positive reviews. Writers John Trengove, Malusi Bengu and Thando Mgqolozana have taken two things that hardly get mentioned in the same sentence - homosexuality and ulwaluko - and infused them into this one explosive movie that’s got the tongues wagging and reviewers singing its praises. As Xhosa men Vija and Xolani, as different as they are in behaviour and approach, both struggle to come out of the “closet.” 

The envelope was drastically pushed in the making of this film. From disturbing scenes of initiates actually getting circumcised, to the painful to watch sections of the young men’s wounds being dressed it becomes clear why traditional circumcision is done in secluded areas and not in some auntie’s bedroom at home.

This explains the obvious chagrin reaction by not only traditionalist Xhosa men but anyone who has an idea of the sensitivities surrounding the custom. Which is why I further found it perplexing that having taken this huge risk, why the writers didn’t address the white elephant when it comes to initiation schools in some parts of South Africa – especially the Eastern Cape. Which is the alarming number of initiates dying in mostly illegal circumcision schools. Not even a footnote of reference is made on this epidemic in the movie. Why take the risk of going so deep into uncharted waters and not address the main issue surrounding it? 

In conclusion, one can advance for freedom of expression but how far can one push the envelope? I am certain that the producers of this movie didn’t breach the provisions under the doctrine of freedom of expression.

However, they pushed the envelope further than anyone else has ever previously dared to when it comes to challenging what one may and may not expose about the culture of ulwaluko.  Whether it will open up a never before had dialogue, I doubt it. In fact, as has already been the case, I foresee even more pushing back at the movie makers by those alive to the sensitivities surrounding the custom as has already been the case thus far.

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