Customs and traditions no longer serve us if they are not for the betterment of the people.
Lately I have been receiving requests to petition for the banning of the movie Inxeba (The Wound). I have not watched it yet but I have seen the trailer. These are my thoughts on the matter.
Firstly, as a custodian, activist and protest poet, I am guilty of having written a poem called Isiko Lobudoda, where I voice out burning issues about this custom of traditional initiation.
My contemporaries have criticised my literary approach in this piece, accusing me of using a forbidden language and of exposing certain aspects of the practice that ‘as a man [I] should know are a secret’.
I have had similar conversations with other authors whose work deals with similar issues of myth, science, custom and tradition in their multi-conceptual narrative.
Before suppressing any form of artistic expression about culture, we must remember that we no longer live in a so-called ‘conventional society’ where children grow up with both parents present.
We are dealing with issues of single-parenting and most boys are raised by their mothers.
These women have a say in how their children grow when most men do not.
A movie such as The Wound can help get women involved in decision- making processes about the future of their children, whom they raise alone most of the time.
There is no point in protecting patriarchal conventions, which have resulted in masculinity being animalised – masculine men who become aggressors against femininity and youth. Without the latter we have no nation.
Such information must be brought into the open because if we are to transform any of the old customs to adapt to our current situations – gender violence, homophobia, lack of gender equity, deteriorating health conditions and transmission of incurable diseases – these customs must be reviewed by the public, and mostly by active parents, who in most cases are single mothers.
This is in no way being disrespectful towards tradition since the tradition itself is failing to show respect for people’s lives.
There is nothing more degenerative than the culture of abuse and murder which has infested our communities.
I believe if people were to put more effort in protesting against such, we would become a better society.
We as men must not be pre-occupied by false concepts of taboo and secrecy, while the nation is dying from products of almost obsolete traditions, men.
We must not continue to reinforce notions of gender superiority by virtue of being masculine.
Initiation schools continue to do this and the custom nowadays is most likely to produce monsters as opposed to well-mannered young men.
What do we expect if we employ ex-criminals (iintsizwa zenombolo) to watch over our sons in the bush?
Why is homosexuality seen as a weakness, leading to even worse treatment of gay boys in the bush, whereas these children are some of the brightest minds that our nation has?
What will come out of a traumatised and abused generation?
It is imperative that as men we acknowledge our flaws and crimes when they are brought to light.
The evolution of tradition and culture is not a new phenomenon.
During the wars of Imfecane, amaZulu King Shaka forbid his young Zulu men from getting circumcised as he felt that going away to the bush left his army weak, while the enemies of his Kingdom drew closer.
He believed that Impi (war) would make stronger men out of their boys than an initiation school.
Until today, the Zulu nation no longer practices this custom – although in recent years King Goodwill Zwelithini has encouraged young Zulu men to undergo medical male circumcision to reduce their chances of contracting HIV/Aids – and this has not made Zulu men any less masculine.
Tradition and culture evolves when times demand. Both these are agencies for the livelihood and wellbeing of the people, and therefore people have both a right and a responsibility to change these when they no longer serve their purpose.
So, I will not petition for the banning of this film, instead I am interested in the dialogues it provokes for the betterment of all of us people.
Let art speak the truth my people.
Phumelele Lavisa is a Bachelor of Sciences Anthropology honours student at Rhodes University