“An uncircumcised Xhosa man is a contradiction in terms, for he is not considered a man at all, but a boy.”
The words of late South African president Nelson Mandela in “Long Walk to Freedom” preface the reverence and gravity placed upon “ulwaluko,” the initiation male Xhosa youths must face on their road to manhood.
Twice a year thousands of initiates will venture into the Eastern Cape bush, led by caregivers entrusted with guiding these boys. Central to “ulwaluko” is circumcision, performed by a traditional surgeon and without anesthetic. Initiates must show no fear and shed no tear during what Mandela called “a trial of bravery and stoicism.”
After that, weeks are spent away from civilization in a male-dominated camp, healing and growing into the role of a man before returning to society with respect and the expectation to take property and a wife.
Mandela’s account was taboo-breaking when first published in 1994 – but when you’re the father of a nation, perhaps one is granted a free pass for disclosing cultural secrets.
South Africa’s Xhosa community has been less generous to upcoming film “The Wound” (“Inexba”), a critically lauded but publicly divisive feature by director John Trengove.
Telling the love story of two gay Xhosa men and set against “ulwaluko,” the film has proved controversial, facing