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Taboo: Xhosa circumcision initiates post selfies on social media

Traditional leaders in South Africa’s Eastern Cape are calling for ban of cellphones at initiation schools after a flood of selfies hit social media. Taking photographs of the initiates’ activities in the mountains remains a taboo and speaking about the rituals is frowned upon.

Photos have emerged on social media of “Xhosa initiates sticking their tongues out, one initiate kissing a girl, and a group posing with a woman at the side of a road,” Timeslive reported.

The pictures have prompted traditional leaders to call for a ban to protect the privacy and secrecy of the traditional initiation ceremony.

Xhosa circumcision initiates pose for a selfie. Photo: DailyDispatch

Xhosa circumcision initiates pose for a selfie. Photo: DailyDispatch

According to Timeslive, OR Tambo deputy mayor Thandekile Sabisa, who heads the municipality’s traditional initiation programme, said: “That initiates who are meant to be in secluded areas post their photos on the internet shows the extent to which our culture has been lost [among] young people”.

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Although no initiation rituals were shared with the pictures, 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.

Taking photographs of the initiates’ activities in the mountains remains a taboo and speaking about the rituals is frowned upon. Initiates and those who have been to the mountain are given strict instructions not to talk about it to protect the practice’s sacredness.

'Abakhwetha' pose with a white stranger. Photo: DailyDispatch

‘Abakhwetha’ pose with a white stranger. Photo: DailyDispatch

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