Masculinity under siege?

Every year young boys die in the process of "becoming men", ulwaluko. Recently Mpumalanga made news when 27 boys died at an initiation camp.

When such stories are reported I'm reminded of the imigidi I have attended, celebrating the return of ikrwala (a new man). Growing up, the deaths of amakrwala (the "new men") were viewed with shame and if anything went wrong people would speak in hushed voices about ihlazo - the shame a family would face if the ritual went awry or ended the life of a son.

Dying at an initiation camp has become an issue of national importance. And rightfully so. The African National Congress(ANC) issued a statement announcing a "parliamentary debate on deaths of initiates" and it was reported that the president was outraged.In the name of culture any suggestion that has been put forward to avoid fatalities has been ignored. The ritual is a private and public moment. Any changes made means the tradition is being disrupted or tampered with (often by outsiders) and thus less authentic and in danger of incurring the "wrath of the ancestors".

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