Thursday, April 8, 2010

Boys in the Bush

Yesterday was the start of the circumcision ceremony in Bambali. I was invited to come out into the bush in the morning to where the young boys were gathered. When I arrived, they were all sitting on small stones under a mango tree with their pants off. They had been circumcized a few hours before i arrived and were trying to maintain their composure in front of the village elders. There were 26 boys ranging from around 6 years all the way up to 14. The procedure was done with a single knife and no anesthetic. Some cried while others held face. After a few hours their wounds were tied up with cloth and they were fed and dressed in womens clothing (wrap skirts and veils) and marched through the bush while the men sang the traditional right of passage songs. We stopped beneath a different mango tree and waited for what everyone knew was coming: the kankurang. Dressed in red and orange grasses and weilding two matchetes, the kankurang is believed to possess supernatural powers and will protect the boys from evil spirits during their time in the bush, usually around one month. They will be taught the history and customs of their village and the tenants of non-verbal communication with elders. They will also be taught traditonal Mandinka songs and learn what is expected of them as men. Upon returning they will be accepted as men and expected to behave as such. Women are not allowed to see the boys for the duration of the ceremony and the same is true for the female version of this ceremony. The kankurang will come into the village a few times a day and chase people into their homes. If you are caught outside you risk being beaten with matchetes, though this applies more to the women as the men are given more freedom as long as they don't approach the kankurang. Women must run into the house at the first sight of it. While there is a danger to it, most people enjoy the kankurang as it lets out high pitched screams and bangs matchetes together late into the night....

1 comment:

  1. Hey Devin! Well I just got caught up reading your blog and checking out your pictures on facebook and whatnot. Looks like you are having an adventure of a lifetime, I knew you would. I hope that all is well with you and we miss you here in Chico! Much love, Marilla