Xhosa initiation rite
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WATCH: Embracing Xhosa culture: White teen undergoes Xhosa initiation rite

A video of a fluent Xhosa-speaking teenager Chad “Xolani” Baling, 18, who recently successfully participated in a sacred initiation rite of passage ceremony in South Africa has set tongues wagging on social media. Baling lives with a Xhosa family in East London, and he went through the traditional Xhosa ulwaluko initiation rite to manhood. Some social media users have been applauding Chad for embracing a critical part of Xhosa culture, while others users having been critical of the custom calling it “outdated”.

A video of a fluent Xhosa-speaking teenager Chad “Xolani” Baling, 18, who recently successfully participated in a sacred initiation rite of passage ceremony in South Africa has set tongues wagging on social media.

Baling lives with a Xhosa family in East London, and he successfully went through the traditional Xhosa ulwaluko initiation rite to manhood. Baling, who had been staying with a Xhosa family in Sunnyridge since March after finding himself homeless, begged the head of the family Xolile Bungu, 72, to send him to the mountain just like many Xhosa teenagers, Daily Dispatch reported.

Some social media users have been applauding Chad for embracing a critical part of Xhosa culture.

Thabang Gmate (Facebook) “This is what true transformations is about. We have always practised white things and this boy shows that we can love each other unconditionally…”

However, other users having been critical of the custom altogether, with some calling it “outdated”. Traditional circumcision has often been criticised because of mortality rates and penile injuries.

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Baling is not the first white boy to undergo the rite of passage. There have been a number of white teenage boys who have undergone the traditional initiation rite over the years.

In South Africa, various indigenous peoples still practice traditional circumcision and Ulwaluko remains fundamental to Xhosa cultural life.

Two Xhosa initiates undergoing initiation school. Photo: Schalk van Zuydam/AP
Two Xhosa initiates undergoing initiation school. Photo: Schalk van Zuydam/AP

The practice remains a mystical, and secretive ritual that occurs far away from the gaze of the public, and revealing the initiates’ activities in the mountain is a taboo, and speaking about the rituals is frowned upon.

The disclosure of initiation details is forbidden in traditional Xhosa culture and other cultural groups. Details of the initiation rituals are not supposed to be disclosed to members of the public or the media, females or non-initiated males known as inkwenkwe (boy).

Initiates are bound by the principle: “what happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain” and any form of disclosure is viewed as a taboo.

Video courtesy of Daily Dispatch.

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