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 017: INTERNSHIP

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3…2…1 mic on, go…on air! Ladies and gentlemen, this is your main girl Sly Wangari and you’re tuned in to the dopest of contemporary radio stations – Syokimau FM where breathtaking music plays round the clock. I will be your host for a couple of months for the Morning Drive show, ensuring I keep you in tabs with the traffic flow and making your experience of reporting to work, worthwhile.

DJ Fresh Boy how’re you doing this morning?

Can’t complain, looking very lovely yourself.

Oooooh, thank you. You’re also dressed like you are heading somewhere fancy after this show?

Not really. Just representing the streets. You know how we do it!

Great, so what’s on your playlist today?

Some great vibes coming up shortly. Kendrick Lemar, Drake, Dj Khalid, and a bunch of East Africa club bangers and all your favourite urban music. We have some new tracks too. I hear you’ve lined up a heated conversation? Trying to stifle a grin.

For sure, don’t you touch that dial. Speaking of heated conversations, dear listeners we wanna hear from you, what’s your take regarding bisexual people? Would you date them? Are you one of them? Is there a big deal to it? Talk to us. By now you know the digits to call us from!….Dj Fresh Boy give us some music.

Just a quick one Sly

Yes, Fresh Boy

Who are bisexuals?

Ooh, sorry. A simple definition of bisexuals are people sexually attracted to both men and women.

Now you know. Great music plays from the background.

*

Caller1: Hello

Sly: Syokimau FM, good morning! Who is on the line?

Caller1: My name is Benjamin calling from Nairobi.

Sly: Yes Benjamin, what’s your take on bisexuals?

Caller1: I would never date a bisexual. It’s ungodly and unAfrican to start with. How’d the relationship work if my woman is charmed by women the same way a man is aroused?

Sly: So your take is a no! no!

Caller 1: Bisexuals have no place in our society. It’s evil.

Caller 2: Good morning I’m loving your show.

Sly: Thank you so much, what’s your name and where are you calling from?

Caller 2: My name is Sheila from Matiba University.

Sly: Shout out to MUST! What’s your take dear, on our topic of discussion.

Caller 2: I was recruited to be a bisexual in high school. Lesbianism was very rampant in our school and since it was a girls’ boarding school, many students naturally got attracted to each other. It was no big deal spotting two girls sharing a bed. Of course, it was such a gross misconduct when one got nabbed, but it still happened. It’s a culture we found in the school and was entrenched in us right from Form 1.

Sly: Sighs! So, Sheila, you saying even after completing your studies you were unable to grow over the habit? And secondly, does your family or close friends know about this?

Caller 2: I was barely 14 and naive. I got so hooked to it until the habit made peace with my life. In fact, sleeping with another lady is so casual to me. Many of my high school friends still do it to date. It starts with kissing then the rest is history. None of my family members are aware of it, neither does my boyfriend. He works in a distant town which makes it easier for me to bring my girlfriends to the house without him smelling trouble.

Sly: Would you wish to go back to your other life?

Caller 2: Of course I wish I’d unlearn this vice but I don’t know how to. My body is so weak for such a brave decision.

Sly: Don’t you think probably when you get married it will just be a matter of time before your hubby suspects you or finds you pants down?

Caller 2: There is that risk, but what to do? I live a day at a time.

*

Summing up on this topic, Fresh Boy let’s hear your opinion.

Sly, where do I begin? Reading comments on our social media pages and listening to many young callers, paint a worrying trend. You realize our generation is headed to the dogs. Bisexual has been made to sound cool and acceptable. Look at what is happening in clubs and house parties nowadays. I hear we have exclusive gay and lesbian clubs. We’ve casualized everything.

Sly…

I hear you, sounding very deep today hahaha! My view would be simple. School authorities should be hands-on in ensuring detrimental habits aren’t encouraged. Take for a case of Sheila who called in alluding she was recruited while in Form 1. Parents too should do more in getting closer to their adolescence kids and befriending them. It’s only through this that some of these habits can be neutralized. To the adults; nothing can’t be unlearned with resolve and support from family and friends.

***

Sly had earned herself a spot at arguably one of the most sort after radio stations by the millennials, Syokimau FM. She took up the challenge to try her luck for the internship position and a month after, her co-host got pouched by a rival media house. Her new bosses well impressed by her radio vocals put her on the hot seat for a couple of days on an acting capacity which ostensibly ran to some weeks before her position got confirmed.

The experience was overwhelming. Who’d have thought that she’d fill the shoes of such a competitive radio show – The Morning Drive. She was now waking up at 4 am to get to the office by 5 am, research on the topic of discussion, meet with her seniors which included the Program Director, Producer, and the Production set. She’d also peruse the papers in search of the trending news relevant to the youths, as well as learning the ropes of working under pressure in such a dynamic industry.

Her show aired for 4 hours every weekday, thereafter, she’d take a 2-hour break before switching roles at midday to fill in the role of an Assistant Sports Editor. In the afternoon, she’d work for two more hours researching on the next day’s morning show. It was such a tight schedule which came with tremendous experience and a handsome pay. She had discontinued her day tutorials and would attend her classes in the evening.

Image credit: durban.getitonline.co.za

Previously on Platte-land series: Tryst

Platte-land continues next Monday…

MEET NANYUKI’S FINEST PHOTOGRAPHER: BEN SON

PhotographyThey say a picture is worth a thousand words, however, a writer will swallow that with a pinch of salt. It’s distasteful and unfair to summarise the hard work behind writing with just a click of a button, on a light note though. Photographers and writers are like siblings who demean each other and fight from kitchen to bedroom. Nonetheless, finding words that keep out of the way the pictures and yet shed light on the nature of photography, is not only daunting but a tall order. In fact, constructing a story out of an image in mind and manifesting that to souls of readers is way beyond public scrutiny.

On another note; you know, professional photographers can be busy and elusive these days. That should be taken as a compliment. Elusive because, Ben Son is the fourth photographer I have written to, requesting to feature in my blog and has honoured his promise. No hard feelings for Paul Maathai of Mathai gallery, or Sammy Wabs or Bobby Wafalme who I understand was involved in an accident recently. Pole Bobby. True story, photography is growing in leaps and bounds. Ordinary young people are investing hundreds of thousands to acquire the best of equipments for their work. This reminds me of hey days, right when I was growing up, when a Mr. Gatere, the only renown village photographer would transverse my village and neighbouring ones to take pics. Mr. Gatere was tall and slender, with an unkempt afro and a high waist thing, always in dark suits and the icing on the cake – the bicycle of course. Yes he would timely show up on Christmas day and Easter holidays mostly uninvited and thanks to our folks who believed in documenting life back then and having the patience of waiting for an entire month to finally get hold of the photos.

Enough of that, introducing Ben Son of HD Media Africa; a well cultivated artistic soul and one of the most sort after photographers in and around Mt.Kenya region, with his core hub being Nanyuki. Besides, he has clients in Nairobi and Nakuru as well. He started off as a videographer until two years ago when he ventured into Photography in what he says are inevitable circumstances. ”Photography found me. Since that moment I have become fascinated by the rhetoric of the image. I fall in love every day and every subject I photograph. It is another art form to me; you can be as creative as possible with a camera as long as you have the ideas. Photography has the power to change our perspective in life and power to help us make decisions.” He quips.

I indulge Ben Son on what he did after Photography met him and how he has managed to cut his own niche in this very competitive industry. Going by what he says; just like any other form of art, there is a lot of passion involved. “For me photography is about the concept, the reasoning behind the image is far more important than the aesthetic value. All my work has a reason, whether to inform, make a statement, discuss or argue, it always seeks to promote a reaction.”

True to what Ben Son points out, talent is a medium which allows us to show our own point of view, sometimes helping us to understand the world we live in and to discover something unique about ourselves. Interestingly, this is easier said than done. This is because a lot of patience and self-discovery is involved to tap and listen to our passion. And the joy of all this is that; it gives us a chance to see what is invisible, hidden deep in our dreams. As Ben Son states it, “Photography just like any other medium of art, evokes emotions in us, asks questions and forces us to reflect on the world around us.”

By the way, why do the greatest of careers start by accident? What goes wrong in school curriculums that doesn’t align success in our paths? It is like filling a crossword puzzle. That’s how self-discovery smells and tastes like! More often than not, there is a lot of sheer luck that is involved to anybody who is hundred percent contented in what he or she does for a living. And that ought not to be. Life should be nicer and way easier to decipher the paths that lead to our own success and genuine happiness. As you will clearly tell from Ben Son, it was by sheer luck he crossed paths with photography. “I had never thought or had an idea close to my mind of becoming a photographer. Now that I’ve hit the ground, I dream and contemplate daily of becoming better and better than I’m today. When I look up to my role models and the ever changing technology and new ideas, its only then I realize I have a long way to go.“

Is he worried on the influx of quacks in Photography? ”This field is vast and in fact serious practitioners are few. The market accommodates all of us but what keeps us afloat is professionalism, creativity and our uniqueness. If people are showing interest in your work it means you are on the right headway and if it translates to cash then you’re in business but most importantly, its client’s satisfaction that I value most.” Additionally, “Anyone can start photo shoot today and be a professional with time. We can all reckon that at one point everyone starts as a quack and only by experience or exposure, passion and persistence that one gradually evolves from that level to a professional, be it a photographer.”

As someone said, never believe in your own hype if you want to go far; Ben Son sounds convinced that there is more ground to cover. “Photography is purely a learning process. Every day I meet new challenges; new ideas and I learn from them. I’ve learnt to embrace and accept them to becoming who I am today. I love the satisfaction one feels when I fulfill a customer’s expectations. My client’s expectations and gratification is what counts most.”

Don’t you miss childhood dreams and the innocence that came with young age, like me? How we painted our foreseeable future with accomplishment and perfection. Sooner we come head to head with the harsh hiccups of a life that plays mischief with us so effortlessly. That said, it is our duty to save ourselves from that shock and align those dreams to today’s reality. So, what dreams did Ben Son harbor growing up? “As a child I loved movies. I thought I was born to be an actor in Hollywood. Vague as it sounds, I really didn’t understand what I wanted to become, but later as I grew up I realized and developed this passion about movie production and photography. Camera work, editing and so forth, though later I’ve narrowed down to photography.”

It is of immense importance for our parents to be steadfast in whooping unrivaled support to our dreams. They are called to put hope and sense in one basket in matters assurance, and going further to assure us that we are curved to live happier and fulfilling lives. And so, Ben Son parents are an important pillar to his career. ”My parents have been very supportive throughout my career journey and in making sure I’m where I am today, in financial matters and moral support. Every time they see my work, recommend and advice, then I feel fully contended and at peace with myself.”

Ben Son considers himself spiritual and in fact serves in a Media department in his church. You know, contemporary-cool churches are so advanced that they even have media departments and things like Young mothers, Young dads Associations, Youths Chapter, Teens forums, Young-Adults, Men of Faith and such like. This is a huge milestone from the traditional ‘mainstream’ churches which had huge presence of elderly folks for affiliations like Women Guild and Men/Women Associations.

Anyway, I have saved this question for far too long. Somebody explain what’s fancier of these two pieces of equipments – Canon and Nikon? “Well, it depends on who is using it. But for beginners, it’s advisable to start with Canon because of budget constraints since it’s more effective on video shooting while Nikon is the real deal in photography. Nonetheless, you can use either since nowadays we have softwares to edit one’s work. “Ben Son attests.

I ask him about his biggest portion of clientele. “Couples and family shoots are my most frequent clients. Plus I do lots of wedding shoots every other weekend.” Of course women are more photogenic than men except for a few men that I won’t mention here, that take far too many photos and clog the new Whatsapp fad and IG. Man is that manly! Moving on, you’d wonder if one can pay his or her bills solely on photography. “I will surprise you with the fact that, the market is really responding well to photography. More middle class families are embracing professional photos and video shoots. Moreover, there is a lot of potential that is unexplored in this market especially outside of Nairobi. Nairobi is so saturated hence the need for the market to widen up and turn its heat away from the city and tap the talent in other photography hubs coming up.”

Does Ben Son believe in mentorship and giving back to the society especially empowering the youths? “I love and believe in mentorship. Photography is a field that anyone and especially youths can venture. I personally involve young people in my projects to equip them with ideas of what the markets expects of them. I also encourage young people especially those who would wish to venture in photography field, that with minimal resources, one can actually start photography as a career and build up on that.”

Signing off in Jack Ma’s spirit!!

“Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.” – Jack Ma

Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com

 

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