'After I was circumcised I felt part of a tradition'

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The Independent Online

I have been through this African rite of passage. Circumcision forms an integral part of the traditions of the Northern Sothos, the ethnic grouping to which I belong; I am from Polokwane, in Limpopo province.

I have been through this African rite of passage. Circumcision forms an integral part of the traditions of the Northern Sothos, the ethnic grouping to which I belong; I am from Polokwane, in Limpopo province.

I went through this initiation in 1994 at a school in my home village of Ga-Phooko in Limpopo. I had just turned 17 and was in grade nine, being taught Western culture, and it was time to become a man.

Of course, every young man in the village was going to the ceremony, and three days later the dusty streets were empty. Many other boys in the village had graduated to manhood in a similar way.

So I thought to myself: well, if all the other young men are going there, what about me? I made a point of informing my mother that I wanted to become a man. She understood what I meant and she said she would get someone to take me there.

I was later led to the school by a neighbour who had already undergone the ritual. We were a class of about 1,000 initiates and the head of our school was a village doctor (traditional healer) who was highly respected by the local people. He had been involved in initiation ceremonies for more than 35 years.

During my three-week stay at the school I never heard of anyone being beaten up. When I returned to the village after the graduation ceremony, I had become aware of many things I didn't know about our culture. Everybody who knew I had been through the ritual gave me great respect.

Also, from that point onwards, my mother, who had previously ensured that she went to my school and paid fees for me, entrusted me with the cash. I am happy to have gone through initiation because it makes me feel part and parcel of the African tradition.

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