Thursday, April 19, 2007


recently i watched the movie 300. personal taste i suppose but i thought it was great. the scene depicted here where the barefoot boy is out on his own in the snow and slays a wolf to prove his worth reminded me of a case i saw.
when i was working at witbank in the winter we admitted two boys, about 16years old each. they came in from initiation school. they had been taken into the mountains, barefoot and left out in the cold, to prove their manhood. their toes froze off. the one ended in a forefoot amputation and the other lost a toe here and there. somehow the reality of that sort of thing took from the magic of that scene oin the movie. i couldn't help wondering how good a soldier you make if you deprive him of his feet.
to be honest in our neck of the woods we don't really get very bad initiation school injuries. in the eastern cape where the initiation culminates in circumcision, their regular gangrene results in amputations far worse than mere toes and feet. ironic to start your journey as a 'man' without that specific anatomic attachment.
what i found very interesting with our patients was that when they heard they would have to have operations, their main concern was would they be out of hospital in time for the final ceremony of the initiation school which would confirm them as men and no longer boys. the fact that they wuuld go into life partly crippled paled in comparison to the possibility of continuing life as a boy and never achieving manhood (in their view). interesting to view these sorts of things. i really felt for them. i also was once again reminded of the fragile male ego. different in different cultures, but it's amazing what we would go through to be viewed as men.
but despite all this, i still thought it was a great movie.


Sid Schwab said...

I guess anyone willing to undergo circumcision as a near-adult must be considered a man, even if the thing ends up coming off.

Red Rabbit said...

In Malawi, it was odd when the Presbyterian church started trying to get in on the initiation/circumcision business. Their take on it was something like, if the boys are going to do it anyhow, we should try to make sure they use clean razors etc.

The Gule Wankhulu probably didn't figure in the Presbyterian picture though....

Anonymous said...

Glad we're finally hearing from you again. I was getting worried. :)

Bongi said...

red, your gule wankhulu is so similar to zulu i know what you mean. i also assume you're using nguni, a language spoken by a small group of people who migrated to malawi in about 1820 or thereabouts while fleeing the mfekane wars in south africa. little known fact.

actually i'm not opposed to the circumcision rituals as done in the old days. one of my best friends (a doctor) is a xhosa from the eastern cape. he had a bush circumcision when he moved from boy to man and has no regrets. unfortunately much of the old ways are being lost and fly by night initiation schools are now run by people who have no idea and mix bush surgery with copious amounts of alcohol. anyway, the old and the new still need to find each other. in the era of umguli wankhulu there are other considerations too.