Dear Inxeba Production Team
About a year ago a discussion ensued in class which landed us in a conversation around cultures and how each is distinct and how that distinction influences morals, values etc. The matter of initiation came up. Everyone except the Xhosa-speaking few had a lot to say about “the Xhosa way” of male initiation.
This bothered me.
I looked to the two or three Xhosa guys – they said not a word. I knew why, but just couldn’t take it. Infact I got so annoyed that I eventually spoke up and shut down that entire discussion using all the weaponry I had in my clandestine arsenal.
I was wrong.
During break, I had to go and apologise to the xhosa gents because I know that in their presence I cannot speak of, make mention, not even to defend any matter concerning ukwaluka kwamadoda. I got one of the sharpest reprimands I am yet to ever get (again) in my adult life! I took it and apologised because I knew I was wrong.
I’m well aware that initiation is not unique to AMA-XHOSA but allow me to express my concern as a Xhosa girl.
Let me school you.
1. Women are regarded as sacred in the African culture. So sacred that not a single decision is taken outside of the counsel of women. There’s always that one woman in every family who must agree to even the decision of taking a boy to the mountain for initiation. In turn, we reciprocate this secrecy by allowing OUR men the space and leeway to create a world and environment around us that is safe, and conducive to raise our children, teaching and in grafting culture and values into their learning experience. OUR MEN create that world, we nurture it, and we love it.
2. As mothers, when our sons go to the mountain, we take a sacred fast – speak less, don’t gossip, sleep on the floor, keep sexual sanctity, conduct ourselves with absolute discretion and humility. Those of us who pray turn up the heat 10times more during this time. We do this because we recognise that the journey our son has to take between being the boy we bore and the man who must step up and begin creating a ‘world’ for his generation, is not a small task. We keep this sanctity until the boys come back as men.
3. As girls we are given the responsibility to cook for, and look after our brothers during their time of segregation. Naturally, curiosity kicks in and we ask all sorts of questions. We are given a general summary but never the details. In all our lives, nothing instills pride more than this best-kept secret of what happens on the mountains. We remain curious but absolutely love it that we don’t know. We understand our duties and totally, wholeheartedly accept our role as prescribed. We sincerely love that our fathers, brothers, and husbands have this language of their own. Somehow it fortifies the respect and honour we share between men and women. We hold this virtue in very high regard, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. When the boys come back as men – that is what we see – MEN. We pride ourselves in who they are, we offer them the due support and respect due to a man. Whether they live up to it or not is really a function of our deteriorating societal values, which films like yours have successfully entrenched as colonial fibrosis, eating away at the strength of the wall protecting our generational embryos, in the womb of our AFRICAN PRIDE.
5. The older you grow as a woman in the Xhosa culture, the less concerned you are about what happens there. Infact the gist of my letter to you today is to let you know WE FIND IT OFFENSIVE having someone tell us what OUR MEN get up to, especially if the man narrating the tale has never been through the process himself, and is feeding our children a compilation of academic research coupled with someones experiences, which only a minority can attest to; better still has no pride whatsoever in the sacracy of our culture. IT IS OFFENSIVE.
Generally we don’t want to know what the men get up to there. Each family has an older man assigned to look after their family boy through the process, and for us, THAT IS ENOUGH. The level of trust we have in our men is beyond what words can express. We don’t want to know beyond our apportionment of information. You see, what makes us particularly special is the string of innocence we are born into and we grow up seeing how our men are trained and socialised to protect our innocence, not just relating to this but to life in general. For example, in a family of girls only, girls are not expected to shepherd their family livestock. Shepherd boys from the village offer help, and neighbours take over the chore of feeding and taking that family’s cattle to graze. Without being asked, they automatically assume the responsibility because they know we are girls and as neighbours/brothers, they MUST create an environment of where we are cared for, and have our our innocence preserved. Eish…
Listen man, we really, really like it that way.
6. Your film, no matter how “woke” it may seem in the context of our cosmopolitan make-up, is deeply, deeply offensive. Quite ironically, the liberation you hoped to bring to the masses by ‘exposing’ age-old sacracy has had the exact opposite effect, not just to men, but especially to us women. Your production is an almost successful attempt to shred and destroy faith in a cultural practice no (Xhosa) home can outlive or survive without. Who do you think you are? Have you not seen the breakdown of societal values when culture is thrown in the back banner? Have you not witnessed the gross debilitation of community pride when our urban innovations seek to suggest they are living a sub-standard life, what is wrong with you?
Anyway, I think I’ve said what I needed to say and probably won’t keep my reader hooked if I start telling you about the effect of modernisation on African culture; or if I explain the social impacts of incorporating an urban/academic thread into our cultural education; or perhaps the gender dynamic we don’t get to talk about, about how we women are given leeway to rule from behind; or better still how much work you’ve put into destroying male pride in a continent that is hemorrhaging from fatherlessness. Ye man, who in this world do you think you are that you can walk into our backyard, assemble the neighbourhood and start dictating to us what we should see as right or wrong?
Listen man, we cultural women are a dangerous combination of rooted but educated traditionalists who will go to all extents in defending our cultural heritage. Mess, because as a creative myself I know that’s what we do best, but understand your limits.
I’m available for a free crash course on limits
Scrap INXEBA off the African shore.
A proud Xhosa and Africa’s daughter, sister, and future Wife and Mom –