Inxeba (The Wound) is a movie directed by John Trengove. The movie shows the Xhosa tradition of ulwaluko, it is told from the perspective of a homosexual Xhosa man. It shows the journey to manhood, and documents the ins and outs of the initiation process. The movie has a lot of recurring themes and shows certain problems with the process of ulwaluko. It is problematic in so many ways. Due to the historical events that occurred in Africa as a whole, which have led to Africans being viewed as savages and ‘uncivilised’, white people have found it appropriate to tell the stories of Africans, with some building their careers from our stories.
This movie is another example of white directors and producers telling the stories of black people and benefiting from our problems. John Trengove is not entitled to speak about problems that are faced in the African community as he is not even part of these people whose stories he is telling. It is important to ask where the money that has been profited from this movie will go. The IsiXhosa speaking people? The families that lost their sons in initiation schools? Or the white producer and director of the movie with the ‘leftovers’ going to the actors involved. Or better yet will it fund hundreds of IsiXhosa speaking students who are financially excluded from tertiary institutions? The mere fact that the movie was funded by Europeans is problematic, they own our story and tell our problems because to them our uncivilised ways sell.
The most common argument from Xhosa men has been that the movie is disrespectful to the traditions of the tribe, the passage to manhood is sacred and as such should not be known by anyone else besides Xhosa men. The movie has certain scenes that reveal treasured events that occur during the initiation process. It is very important that the recurring themes in the movie such as the issues that the LGBTIQ community faces, particularly those who are part of the Xhosa tribe be discussed and solved. It is true that there are individuals who have experienced the disgusting intolerance for homosexuals during the initiation period, and this issue should be addressed. However in addressing this issue, the traditions and customs of Xhosa people should not be disrespected, portrayed to people who have never been through this kind of initiation-this has been the case during the times of our forefathers (what happens in the mountains, specifically the actual initiation stays there).
This movie should be banned everywhere, and lastly white people need to start minding their own business and stop telling our stories. It is also quite important that the Xhosa tribe holds conversations with the LGBTIQ community to make sure the tradition of ulwaluko does not exclude and discriminate them. Releasing a movie that will only be seen by the privileged will not stop the faults of this tradition as it occurs in villages in South Africa not Berlin. The Xhosa speaking people in the movie should be holding these conversations in villages where these problems are. Ulwaluko is a sacred process and should be treated with respect. “Until a lion learns how to write, the story will always glorify the hunter” –African Proverb.
Written by Asandiswa Jali – a 2nd year BA student at Wits University