It’s that time of the year when boys become men, this traditionally happened between the ages of 16 and 26, though for health and safety concerns the South African government made it illegal for a boy under the age of 18 to go to initiations school. The ceremony is when mothers can show off their best imibhaco and girls can dance to their hearts’ content. The big event is ukwaluka.

What is ukwaluka?

It is when a boy must take the journey to the mountain to become a man. In English terms, it is male circumcision. Depending on your culture, the event is done and celebrated in different ways. December is the best season to go, as everyone has the money, and the weather is beautiful for someone who will be at the mountain for two weeks up to a month. June is also a season to go, as it’s a long holiday from school; as cold as it may be, many also go during this time. 

Depending on your family’s and tribe’s traditions, you can be at the mountain for up to a month or less than that nowadays. After that, there will be umgidi when the boy returns as a man, and the village celebrates your return. With their best traditional outfits, people come out in numbers to drink and eat in your name, which is when the boy can transition from being umkhwetha to being ikrwala. During the process on the mountain they are called umkhwetha.

Ikrwala, meaning a new man, is the period when they come back home, and they can wear new clothes that signify their manhood. They wear these clothes for some time. A funny story in the villages is that ikrwala is not allowed to run, even if its rains. So younger kids would prank them with things that would require them to run. 

Tell us: Is this new information to you? Or do you know about this ritual?