Becoming a man in the name of love
Businessman, 40, undergoes Xhosa ritual of traditional circumcision
There are many recorded incidents of people doing extraordinary things in the name of love and Graaff-Reinet businessman Sirdley Smith is one of those people.
The self-employed businessman, aged 40, has undergone the Xhosa ritual of traditional circumcision in order to be considered a man and so be able to marry his girlfriend of two years.
The Daily Dispatch visited Smith at his initiation hut in Ethembeni Village outside King William’s Town.
The father of two girls said the notion of undergoing circumcision had been whirling around in his mind for some time after an elderly Xhosa man known only by his clan name of “Mawawa” had told him that according to Xhosa custom, it was forbidden for someone considered to be a boy to marry a woman.
“The old man has been my friend over the years and when I told him that I wanted to have a wife, he told me that in order to make my girlfriend umakoti [Xhosa bride], I would first have to get circumcised.”
His girlfriend, a prison warder, supported his decision.
“Her father and brothers are all men and I have always felt small around them.
“When someone wants to break you they can just call you a boy and that hurts the most. I realised that if I wanted to marry this woman, I needed to get circumcised.”
Smith sold his Toyota bakkie to cover the costs of the ritual.
“I bought all the things that I would need for this journey, including the clothes I will wear when I come out.
“As soon as I go out I will make her umakoti so that she can feel proud that she also has a man.
“In my heart I just want to make her happy. When I was without a job for a year, she was there for me.”
Smith’s father is Xhosa but as a boy he was not pressured by his family to undergo customary circumcision, although he felt like a social recluse when most of his childhood friends went to the bush.
“My father is Xhosa and my mother is coloured but they never forced me to do this.
“I have lived with Xhosa people all my life but this is something I never really thought about. But when I grew up many of my friends went to initiation schools. It bothered me that I could not eat and drink with them at traditional ceremonies,” Smith recalled.
After completing high school, Smith left Graaff-Reinet for George in the Western Cape, where he lived and worked as a boilermaker for 20 years before returning to his hometown in 2013.
“Life was very nice in George, I had my own money and could afford to go to the best clubs.
“Life was all about partying and I saw no need to go to the bush, but when I met the old man, he told me that I needed to be serious about life and become a man through my actions and doing what is right.
“I feel lighter, as if a heavy load has been lifted off my shoulders. This is not just about being circumcised; this has taught me how to look after myself.
“It has given me time to focus on myself. I decided to come do it here so that I can have some privacy. Had I done it back home, friends and clients would have disturbed me. When I go back home they will just see a complete man.”
His homecoming event will be held in the village on Saturday.
“My mother’s side of the family was happy for me. I told them on the day I was leaving that I am going to the bush.
“I just wanted to be a man and really, today, I feel like one.”..