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Sunday, 31 May 2009

A Short Cut to Manhood, Uganda - Page 2

Written by David Bentley
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The threshold, a tree branch on the ground, has been crossed. The 16-year-old boy, the candidate, steps forward. He's about to become a man. The crowd encircled around him inches forward, craning for a better look. Children crawl beneath the forest of legs, hoping for a glimpse.

We've finished five days of work but haven't accomplished much. We non-Ugandans tend to melt in the heat. We work for four hours starting at 9 AM. By 1 PM, it's at least in the mid-80s, which in itself is not so bad, but the sun here is intense and we have no shade. Direct sunlight during four hours of digging trenches, carrying bricks, or mixing cement is enough. We feel bad we can't do more. Nonetheless, the locals are more than appreciative, humblingly so. Work is often interrupted by those who want to shake our hands. A 'well done' or 'thank you for coming' always follows. That manages to give us a momentary boost; the wheel barrow moves a little faster.

Breaks are occasionally provided by high-speed processions of circumcision candidates surrounded by as many as 30 family members and well-wishers.

Circumcision is a very big deal. It is a rite of passage for boys between 15 and 18-years-old, and it only happens once every two years. The ceremony is a three-day process which ends with a knife.

For a goat, the ceremony begins with a knife. It's slaughtered and the dung inside its body is spread on the candidate's face. He wraps a dark cloth around himself, carries batons in each hand with a whistle around his neck, and wears what looks like a New Year's party hat on his head, complete with glittery plastic tassels. A Short Cut to Manhood, male circumcision, rite of passage, circumcision ritual, Lwemuna Village, Uganda, Uganda rituals, Mount Elgon, David BentleyThis is his uniform during his two day run through the nearby villages. On the third day, in front of the surgeon, encircled by a crowd of hundreds at his uncle’s house, the running ends....

 

 

 

 

 

A Short Cut to Manhood, male circumcision, rite of passage, circumcision ritual, Lwemuna Village, Uganda, Uganda rituals, Mount Elgon, David BentleyThe whistle blows. The surgeon has finished. Two slices--top and bottom--is all it took. Female family members, who had been sequestered inside the house, explode into the yard dancing and singing. The mother, who’s face is also coated in goat dung, leads the group. The men who formed the circle around the candidate raise their clubs, sticks, and machetes and cheer. The weapons are not needed today (and, in reality, are never needed). The surgeon has done a good job and will not be chopped and beaten to death.

 

A Short Cut to Manhood, male circumcision, rite of passage, circumcision ritual, Lwemuna Village, Uganda, Uganda rituals, Mount Elgon, David BentleyThe only people not celebrating are the candidate’s father and uncles. They take the foreskin and hurry in the direction opposite those streaming into the yard. They must dispose of the foreskin so it won't fall into the hands of someone who might wish to curse the candidate.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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