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Search Submit. Many South African men of the amaXhosa tribe and some Nguni speaking people have gone through the sacred Ulwaluko initiation rite which ushers boys into manhood. The ancient ritual includes traditional circumcision and weeks of seclusion to teach boys about their history, culture and responsibilities as men. The controversy is aligned with the number of deaths and accidents recorded over the years as some boys die out of botched circumcisions while others get their penises severed by incompetent practitioners at illegal initiation schools. Support Pan-African Journalism Subscribe. In December last year, 16 boys died in Eastern Cape alone at initiation school where boys are also prevented from taking Western medication or risk being stigmatized by their peers. The boys normally go through the rite in a group and are confined to a hut in the first 7 days and restricted from eating certain foods. The second phase takes between two to three weeks when the boys are looked after by the ikhankatha a traditional attendant who takes them through traditional lessons during which the ingcibi traditional surgeon surgically removes their foreskins. Per tradition, no one is supposed to speak of what happens at the initiation schools else they risk being assaulted. They are then called men and not boys.
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CNN "An uncircumcised Xhosa man is a contradiction in terms, for he is not considered a man at all, but a boy.
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After exploring the three brutal rites boys go through to become men in Africa , we are taking a look at the following interesting coming-of-age rituals for young girls:. Twa people, also called Batwa, are scattered across equatorial Africa. They can be found around Congo Kinshasa , Rwanda , and Burundi. Twa girls go through a rite of passage called 'Elima. Once this special blessing occurs, the young is taken to a house where she stays secluded with other menstruating girls for at least a month. During their stay, an older woman teaches the young girls about their history, how to be good wives, mothers and all it takes to be a Twa woman. Once the girls are done learning, they come out dancing, eligible for marriage. The whole community then partakes in the rest of the Elima festivities. The Anlo-Ewe people are a subgroup of the Ewe people who live in southern Togo, southern Benin, southwest Nigeria, and south-eastern parts of the Volta Region of Ghana. Here, the traditional puberty rites for females is known as Nugbeto.
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CNN "An uncircumcised Xhosa man is a contradiction in terms, for he is not considered a man at all, but a boy. Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.

Photos: Ulwaluko and other tribal traditions. Hide Caption. The youths, known as abakhwetha , are first circumcised without anesthetic, and must live in the bush with minimal supplies. Wearing white clay on their faces, initiates will fend for themselves for up to two months, living in a structure built by the village's adult community specifically for Ulwaluko. Upon their return they are no longer referred to as "boy" and receive a new blanket. The initiation has not been without its criticisms, due to complications and malpractice surrounding the circumcision process.

Young men -- traditionally herdsmen -- wear full makeup, jewelry and their finest clothes and stand in line to await inspection by female onlookers. White teeth and white eyes are highly prized, so participants will grin broadly and pull all manner of expressions in the hope of attracting attention.

It's flirtation en masse , in the hope of winning a night of passion with one of the judges. Mursi, lip plates — Circular lip plates called dhebi a tugion are worn by some Mursi women near Jinka in Ethiopia's Omo Valley. They are one of the few tribes that continue the practice in East Africa, but archaeologists have discovered lip plates in the region stretching back 30, years, says anthropologist Dr Jerome Lewis of University College London. Once the hole is big enough the first of a succession of ornamental ceramic saucers are inserted, stretching it over a period of years -- one example from the neighboring Surma tribe measured Himba, otjize — Women of the semi-nomadic Himba tribe in northern Namibia are famous for their reddish hair and complexion.

It's the result of otjize , a paste of butter, fat and red ocher, applied daily to their hair and skin. It was once speculated that the otjize served as a form of sun protection and to ward off insects, however the women say it's purely for aesthetic reasons -- which makes sense, given that Himba men don't take part in the practice.

Hamar, bull jumping — Herdsmen become hurdlers in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia. Young men of the Hamar tribe, one of many in the valley, prove their manhood by jumping on prize bulls and then running across their backs -- all while naked.

The purpose? It's a coming of age ceremony, and only when the participant has traversed the bull run four times will he be allowed to marry. Slip and you risk a hard fall: "Because it's a manhood initiation ritual, [failure] is likely to affect the perception of someone's manhood and that of course can have all sorts of dire consequence," adds Dr Lewis.

Chewa, matriarchy — Women of the Chewa tribe may not be quite on equal footing as men, but they do hold the key to one thing: inheritance. Descent and succession for the Bantu-speaking tribe, spread across Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, is matrilineal, with property and land inherited from their mothers.

Maasai, spitting — Spittle is an essential part of life for the Maasai of East Africa, as it acts as a blessing. For some, "spit represents an essence of you as a person. San, healing dance — The San of South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Namibia are, according to some researchers, the world's oldest people.

Their hunter-gatherer culture stretches back tens of thousands of years, and integral to it is the trance dance, also known as the healing dance. Historically an all-night affair, the practice brings the whole community together, led by healers and elders dancing around a fire, chanting and breathing deeply until they induce a trance state. It offers the chance to commune with ancestral spirits of the departed and for healers, cure sickness within other dancers. Lewis says that this tradition is under threat: "In some places in southern Africa the San now perform their traditional culture exclusively for tourists, because they've been forced out of all their territories as hunter-gatherers by conservationist organizations.

This means that by extension Bantu-speaking tribes, lobola — A feature of marital affairs for many Bantu-speaking tribes in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, lobola is practiced by, among others, Zulus pictured.

Lobola is also referred to as "bridalwealth", with the prospective groom's family negotiating with the bride's for her hand in marriage. The dowry comes in many forms, including money, but some choose cattle. There were reports in that Nelson Mandela of Thembu lineage paid the marital lobola of 60 cows to the family of new wife Graca Machel. Tuareg, tangelmust — Tuaregs are the only tribal communities in which men wear veils instead of women.

The tangelmust, a wrapped headdress up to eight meters in length, is ubiquitous among the "blue men of the desert. Tuaregs use the tangelmust for practical reasons: it protects from the sun and sand, but men will still wear them at night, and even during meals.

Men cover their faces with the tangelmust in front of strangers and women, while women are free to show their face. With it comes an extraordinary show of pageantry. In the months before the event men live in isolation and drink to excess a mixture of cow milk and cow blood for months in order to become vastly bloated and overweight. Each clan will then present an unmarried male to compete for the title of fattest man -- and with the glory, the greater chance of finding a wife.

With stomachs swollen, balance and fatigue can be an issue, but once the event is over, contestants return to their normal size in a matter of weeks. Dassanech, recycled jewelry — "It's important to remember that tradition doesn't mean 'the same'," says Lewis, "cultures will adapt and add elements all the time. Rubbish of all manner, but particularly bottle tops, have begun to be recycled by Dassanech women, who weave the metal caps into vibrant jangly headdresses. Other women have adapted broken watches and trinkets for similar purposes -- and a sure fire way of getting yourself noticed.

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 -- 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 calls for a boycott as its star Nakhane Toure receives homophobic abuse. The furore threatens to cloud a gripping study of inter-generational attitudes towards homosexuality, illuminating a corner of the LGBT community, stifled, if not silenced, by the precedents of its cultural traditions.

The film has drawn comparisons to "Moonlight" , recent Oscar winner and a movie which called black masculinity into question. So can "The Wound" do the same for one of southern Africa's most entrenched acts of heteronormativity? After screenings at the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlinale earlier this year, all eyes are on "The Wound's" domestic release.

CNN spoke to Trengove and Toure about their journey bringing a boundary-pushing film to life. Speaking after the Berlinale, Trengove had just received a second round of positive reviews for his debut film. At home social media was abuzz, but the chatter was far more mixed. Based almost entirely in and around an initiates' camp, "The Wound" depicts a circumcision ceremony and audiences are privy to the day-to-day life of these would-be men. Shot in collaboration with a first language isiXhosa cast, all but one of whom had been through "ulwaluko," the director had been at pains to tread delicately, and chose to omit much of the rite.

But for some AmaXhosa, a secret rite should remain exactly that. The main contention, its star believes, could be the queer narrative set against this backdrop. It exacerbated how disgusting it was to them in their eyes.

The male cast of "The Wound" were all first-language isiXhosa, and all but one had participated in "ulwaluko. Toure plays Xolani, a closeted warehouse worker charged with caring for young initiates. He returns time and again to perform the task, not out of a sense of duty but to reunite with Vija Bongile Mantsai , a family man and alpha male supressing his own homosexuality.

Their biannual affair is interrupted by Kwanda Niza Jay Ncoyini , a precocious gay initiate from the city, frustrated by the two's repressed attitude towards their sexuality. Tradition, class and toxic masculinity clash in the pressure cooker of the camp, and tensions simmer before rising to an inevitable boil.

Trengove and his co-writers Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu wanted to explore, in the director's words, the notion "that the initiation is quite widely regarded as, not quite a cure, but an end for homosexuality. Inside Orania, South Africa's whites-only town. A paper by Anathi Ntozini and Hlonelwa Ngqangweni details similar findings, as well as the belief that gay Xhosa men "may be viewed as compromising the sacredness of the practice.

On the other hand, the culture is very patriarchal. A social media campaign against the film has seen Toure the recipient of "incredibly homophobic and violent" hate mail, he says. But, the actor and director both add, there's plenty of people supporting the film's desire to provoke a debate. Young initiate Kwanda Ncoyini, left "represents something extremely positive and for me," says Trengove.

As the film industry aspires to greater diversity, it's becoming clear the issue is not only skin deep. LGBT cinema is moving away from the margins, the director argues. Trengove cites "Stranger By The Lake" as a recent example of mainstream success, which was followed by "Carol" and "Moonlight" -- another film charting the path of a young gay black man to adulthood.

Masculinity as we see it on screen is diversifying, and "The Wound" is playing a part in that. It might appear confrontational to some, liberating to others, but cinema is catching up with reality.

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