CIRCUMCISION: CULTURE, CHURCH & GANGS

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Circumcision is one of the most revered cultural practices in my community. It is a mark of transformation and liberation, if you may. Liberation from childhood manners and anything that demeans boyish attributes. The physical mark that is painfully entrenched to the young man is a gate-pass to the lawns of adulthood. In a nutshell, it’s an achievement that serves as a height of brevity.

You see, this stage is such a big deal as ordinarily, welcomes the boys to the corridors of being the community’s pillars, so to speak. But not only does it qualify them as young men but more pertinently, bequeaths one with a whole wealth of social significants, for instance, being full members of the society including, equipping them with a hefty list of responsibilities.

While that is easier said than done especially in recent times when good morals have taken a heavy beating, we can’t wish away such an important cultural activity. However, the act is not cast in stone in that it automatically turns one into a responsible and fully-fledged young man. Ideally, it should be supported by frequent follow-up mentorship forums just to mould the young men to fairly principled youths who can’t easily be washed away by the evil millennial torrents.

At this juncture, it’s important to appreciate that there are organized men associations out there that are working tirelessly hard to foster good cultural practices that remain significant to the community. Of importance is to note that they are coming in handy to support the negated boy child who has periodically suffered at the expense of other emotive issues. For the last 5 years or so, they’ve strived to fill the void that the boy child has been subjected into overtime, by mentoring the boys and serving as credible role models. With the absence of credible role models for boys and young men to identify with, has in itself worked as a destruction to these generations.

That said, there has been controversy triggered by the role the church is playing as far as circumcision of boys is concerned. Now, to avoid being buried in the sensation, we should ask ourselves, who is supposed to circumcise the boy or rather put it differently; who is supposed to play the central role in the initiation stage of boys?

Tough as it may, traditionally, it was conducted by the elders. Why it was an elders-affair-only was for a very simple reason. They were and still are the cultural gatekeepers. No other institution or individual can challenge their authority as far as cultural knowledge is concerned. Nevertheless, with the global advancements revolutionizing the way of doing stuff, many African cultures risk being overridden and completely forgotten, if that hasn’t happened already. In the last 3-5 decades or so, elders in many communities got bypassed in the whole business of circumcision. Many families developed a preference for medical practitioners just to ensure hygiene was observed and that qualified personnel handled their sons. Actually, the best word to use is, Professionals. Yes, pun intended!

As time moved, so was religion taking root in the African context. And as you’d guess, the church jumped right in as the cookie crumbled. While this transpired, many elders outfits resulted to either being mum or outnumbered. They were seen as social outcasts and their beliefs considered unbecoming. But this didn’t erase their disquiet or tilt their views. Luckily, in less than a decade ago, tables turned. Quietly, the quest from middle-aged men yearning to become members of elders’ associations started gaining momentum. Some sections of the media started embracing these outfits too and inviting them on air.

And as if that was the lucking springboard, these cultural outfits seem not to look behind but to mop out every young man worth his salt to join them. And it’s a good thing. I will tell you why:

It’s only in these outfits that one comprehensively gets to learn about virtually anything there is to learn in a culture. At least in my community, they’ve proved to be extremely resourceful to mentor the boy child, instill values that were lacking before, pass unlimited cultural knowledge to the young men and serve as a center to diagnose a community’s challenges and propose solutions. This goes without mentioning the unmeasurable avenue of networking for the boy child and rewarding one with a sense of identity.

While this has been unfolding, it hasn’t sat well with the church. Men of the cloth have not only bashed the elders at least in some quarters but dared their male members to join such outfits. For the record, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa(PCEA) which is one of the most populous religions in this country(Kenya) advised its members to keep off a Gikuyu cultural practice referred to as Mburi cia Kiama which involves slaughtering of goats and relaying cultural studies to Agikuyu men. The elders in return, have not taken the accusations lying low. They’ve termed the ban as unwarranted and misguided since they are not in the business of fighting religion.

It is such sharp division between the church and cultural organizations that has yet again raised the lid on who should administer the circumcision act. While the elders believe they are the chief custodians of a community’s cultural resource bank, the church is riding on contemporary realities and the rule of Christianity. But it is in the wake of such quagmire that saw a section of residents of Murang’a protest due to a particular church having outsourced a seemingly fake doctor to oversee the botched circumcision act of male boys. The victims were painfully compelled to undergo the act again, this time by the elders.

One might hypothetically ask if these elders have any background in medical know-how? The answer would be; these cultural organisations have men from all walks of life and in different occupations including highly regarded doctors in this country.

That aside, more seem to be rocking this enviable stage of a man, as criminal gangs have taken upon themselves to radicalize the young boys soon after they face the knife. Dozens if not more victims have lost their lives in the recent past out of falling out with these villains and many more left for the dead having been grossly maimed. These gangs are loosely woven militias trying to fill a void of who should pass on the cultural knowledge to the young men.

The boy child is at a crossroad – To keep up with the church as it figures out how to go about the heavily important cultural act or warm up to the elders for the much-needed blessings and acquisition of knowledge. While these two institutions can have their interests harmonized, a section of the church fraternity does not seem to appreciate the role culture plays in mankind’s life. As that should be addressed, so should the criminal gangs radicalizing and misleading the youths be completely mopped out, for the safety of our young men.

In other words, the boy child has a lot of battles to win over or risk perishing in unchartered world that our forefathers sacrificed lives to safeguard!

PLATTE-LAND 008: IN LAWS

Related imageAnastasia is 5 months pregnant. Her belly has started to bulge as her neck darkens by the day. She occasionally wakes up with morning sickness – feeling dizzy, nausea, headache and backache. While heartburn is a frequent occurrence, her skin is glowing and appears way softer. Her bust is increasing in size perhaps gearing up to have capacity for the baby’s milk.

In the next 3 months, she will have to defer her studies as she prepares to take on motherhood. Luckily, this will coincide with the long holiday break, meaning she will not cut short her classes in the middle of the semester. She has now coped with her predicament of studying while being expectant, besides struggling to forget the infamous drama that led to her pregnancy. Her friendship with her circle of buddies has been highly tested, with some choosing the easier way out – of ridiculing her in the periphery, instead. Such is life!

Her relationship with Mongoose has been grossly underfed of late, possibly due to the sharp focus and sensitivity of the matter at hand and going by the court’s ruling. Over and above that, the two families have limited their communication to each other, and left it at the mercy of emissaries to dispatch information back and forth. Predictably, the two family ties have been marred with heightened tension and caution.

Nonetheless, she has now reconciled with her folks after the dramatic ending to the case proceedings where she let the cat out of the bag regarding the alleged rape. As a matter fact, her family has fully embraced her pregnancy journey and showed lots of support. They regularly visit her in school to find out how she is fairing besides getting her an assistant to help in house chores. They’ve also rented her a spacious apartment since the hostels are way congested.

However, today, Anastasia’s family will be expecting visitors at their home. A powerful delegation from Anastasia’s boyfriend – Mongoose, will be paying a visit having notified and requested to pay a courtesy call to deliver a special message. On receiving the request through three gentlemen that visited Anastasia’s dad recently, Pastor Muchoki consulted his kins from the association of Athuri a Jung’wa as well as his family regarding the visit. The three gentlemen had come armed with a handful of shopping, a 20 litre jerrycan of muratina and some cash. After a lengthy consultation, Mongoose family was given a nod to the visit.

In forethought…

Anastasia was looking forward to the visit that would determine the fate of her relationship with Mongoose. They’ve barely talked much for the last five months and she’d wonder what’s within the special message his men would come forth with. Would her supposed in laws demand for the baby after the delivery and denounce her in totality? Would it be another set of court cases regarding the custody of the baby? Would he pledge to sustain the love for her as he always attested even after such a horrifying expose of their intimate moment? Would Mongoose’s family take responsibility and show commitment to her pregnancy and future of the baby? Would it turn out that she was meant to be a single Mum after-all?

For Mongoose, he was also caught up in the fizzy cobwebs of uncertainty. He wondered if Anastasia would stick to him even after her personal life was pealed off and subjected to the public gallery. It was a mystery according to him to imagine whether, their once highly guarded secret relationship would ever heal and recover from the beating it underwent 5 months ago. On the other hand, reality was sinking that he’d be someone’s dad in a couple of months, prepared or not. Life seemed punishing and on a vengeance mission. Fortunately for him, he always loved Anastasia. He was struck by her right from childhood when they met during inter-schools sports events and in church where they were enrolled in the same class of catechism.

D-Day

Unlike in a dowry event where a convoy of cars sneak in a village with all manner of gusto and theatrics, hooting and blinking their headlights, the maiden visit that is mostly for in laws to get to know each other, and the guy’s family to formally visit the girls home, is usually muffling and tensive.

Mongoose delegation arrived few minutes after 2 pm but before then, they made a stopover at Ol-Magogo township for housekeeping purpose, and to ensure they were strategic in all their communication lest they’d would be denied a green light for gods know what the special message entailed. They pulled at the gate and Anastasia’s brothers ushered them to the vast compound dotted with all manner of indigenous trees from the Casuarina, Moringa, Waterpear, Fountain Tree and Fever tree just to name a few. Suffice is to say, Pastor Muchoki has a soft spot for the environment, backed by a short stint at Kenya Forest Service, fresh out of campus. Here, he developed a liking for conserving the environment. He has many tree nurseries round his farm which he sells to the villagers.

They were officially welcomed by the chair of Athuri a Jung’wa in the sub county of Kimahuri Mr. Githendu Ndideko who never left behind his symbolic walking stick, Anastasia’s eldest uncle – Sir Waishigo Wakagoshi who was fond of keeping a he-goat beard at his chin and Kwa Nguku’s Nyumba Kumi chair Mr. Konyeki Mwihau. Pastor Muchoki was few meters behind in tandem with other family members and friends. Mongoose’s delegation had a set of six men. Shortly after, everybody settled in the house and the women served meals after a short prayer session led by Mrs.Justina. With hunger pangs having been taken care of, formal introduction from both parties followed next.

Mongoose sandwiched by his dad and Uncle Wamathanwa, was inevitably quiet, would seem subdued and avoided eye contact with his presumed in laws, for reasons best known to him. Meanwhile, an anxious Anastasia was holed in her room massaging her belly and occasionally peeping at the door trying to discern if there’d be someone sent to fetch her.

Mr. Waishigo took over the MC role by throwing the ball to Mongoose’s delegation requesting them to state the reasons for their visit. He alluded that according to their culture, it’s the guests who come with the news; good or bad. Uncle Wamathanwa who was the spokesman of the other delegation gladly welcomed the statement.

Wamathanwa: First and foremost I wish to thank you for your hospitality and warm welcome. We clearly feel at home. We’ve enjoyed the sumptuous meals and drinks. Now, we’ve brought this young man sitted next to me. Taking a glance at Mongoose like he has never seen him before. I will invite him to tell us his reasons for requesting us to accompany him to this honourable home.

All eyes rolled over to Mongoose who clearly looked intimidated by the age of the men eagerly waiting for a solid and coherent message, communicated with eloquence and confidence. He felt the weight on his shoulders of being the man who’d tickle the bubble and deflate the tension in Pastor Muchoki’s home, that was housing this very defining moment.

Mongoose: Well, thank you everybody. Aah, I requested my family to accompany me as I visit this home to officially request to be given a chance to marry off your daughter Anastasia and begin the dowry process.

Waishigo: So, are you responsible for impregnating her?

Mongoose: Stands up. Yes I am.

Waishigo: Okay, sit down. He walks out to have Anastasia traced.

Awkward silence….

Waishigo: Anastasia, do you know this man? Pointing at Mongoose.

Anastasia: Yes I do.

Waishigo: How so?

Anastasia: He’s my boyfriend.

Waishigo: Okay. You can leave. Anastasia calmly walks out of the room.

Githendu: On behalf of Anastasia’s family we would like to say the following; That we thank you for the respectful gesture of visiting this home. We’ve listened to your message and taken note. We accept your request to have Anastasia married off to your family. However, according to our traditions, it’s a taboo to discuss anything relating to the dowry process and to commence it, until the unborn baby is delivered. Moreover, you’ll have to ensure Anastasia completes her campus studies uninterrupted and we expect that you’ll clear all her school fees going forward.

Wamathanwa: As the family of Ezekiel Kiarie (Mongoose), we are most obliged. We’re humbled to have our plea honoured and are fully satisfied by the response passed across. We also concur that the dowry process can only be begun when the baby is born. Having said that, we didn’t come empty handed! We have thirty thousand shillings and some shopping in our cars as an appreciation for the kind gestures we’ve received from this honourable home and more importantly, as a sign of commitment for better days ahead.

Hands over the cash to Mr. Waishigo. Mr. Waishigo counts it to confirm the amount with no urgency, spits saliva on it and hands it over to Pastor Muchoki’s eldest son – Umbriska Maithori.

Mongoose and Anastasia were requested to hold hands as they were blessed by the elders from the two families. A closing prayer session was conducted, followed by hearty handshakes and hugs.

Women ululated from outside as the ceremony came to an end. Anastasia was officially handed over to Mongoose’s family to start over her marriage life.

Mongoose’s inner voices cheered him up – Bro, who breaks a lady’s virginity and goes ahead to marry her! That aside, where do you find virgins at this day and age? You are a god-man!

Next on Platte-Land series: Apology

Photo Credit: Amira Africa

 

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