Making Of A Man

Umkhwetha, a Xhosa initiate into manhood by Circumcision. Eastern Cape, South Africa. Photo by David Chancellor

Umkhwetha, a Xhosa initiate into manhood by Circumcision. Eastern Cape, South Africa. Photo by David Chancellor

When winter makes its first hint of arrival at the Cape, then Xhosa boys prepare themselves to become men.
They prepare to become bakhwetha, initiates who undergo a series of trials in the wilderness of the Eastern Cape (or, in Cape Town, on plots of land that border the N2 highway) – trials that culminate in circumcision.
Come June, with winter at its coldest and wettest, the stories start to appear in the newspapers: the stories that tell of boys who didn’t make it into manhood. Instead, they died, or were mutilated, because their operations were botched. We saw the stories last year and will again this year. However, the option of staying uncircumcised is impractical if you live among Xhosas.
Even in his book Long Walk To Freedom Nelson Mandela comments on how a Xhosa man who has not been circumcised is a paradox, because he is still viewed as a boy.

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