By Nompumelelo Nkosi
Kwa kwa kwa kwi! This is how Ndebele women ululate when celebrating the glorious traditional ceremony and we’re celebrating with them over the successful return of the Ndebele young men, Amasokana who are back from initiation school. This is a generation to generation cultural journey to men hood and embracing being Ndebele man.
The very brave men leave their families, friends and warm environments for a cold three months lifestyle in the bushes far away from everyone and everything. The initiation starts in April and ends in June. The men are back! And celebrations began in the start of July, families and friends gathered to welcome the “improved” men through ceremonies and a whole lot of gifts such as money, blankets, clothes, bedroom set and more. The men accompany each other along with their representatives to their homes until the very last individual. During the ceremony, the young man’s father hangs jackal skin – known as iporiyane around his neck which symbolises that he is the host of the ceremony.
Over the three months, they are taught how to behave and present themselves as Ndebele men to the rest of the society. In Ndebele culture, when a young boy takes this journey of initiation, it is a gift and a privilege to the parents especially the father. It is important to the father for his son(s) to enact the same ways as he did. A young Ndebele boy is allowed to go into initiation if the father is a sokane. The significance of this journey is the practice of culture as a man and circumcision. This is an emotional journey and it is difficult for the families to bid farewell to the boys and not be able to see them for months but also it is the proudest and prideful time for the men.
In Ndebele culture, the initiation rite, symbolising the transition from childhood to adulthood, plays an important role. Initiation schools for boys are held every four years and for girls, as soon as they get into puberty stage. During the period of initiation, relatives and friends come from far to join in the ceremonies and activities associated with initiation. Boys are initiated as a group when they are about 18 years of age when a special regiment (iintanga) is set up and led by a boy of high social rank. Each regiment has a distinguishing name. Among the Ndzundza tribe there is a cycle of 15 such regimental names, allocated successively, and among the Manala there is a cycle of 13 such names.
Initiation is not limited to village men only. The urban and suburban locations now enjoy and rejoice along with Amasokana amatja. Everyone gets a chance to get involved with a different culture and to learn about the journey. It is still so exciting that over the years the tradition is still embraced and followed and that allows African culture to stand and to remain strong. We danced, sang and embraced and now the men can look forward to take the future generation along the exciting path.