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Sunday, 31 May 2009

A Short Cut to Manhood, Uganda - Page 3

Written by David Bentley
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The threshold, a tree branch on the ground, has been crossed. The 16-year-old boy, the candidate, steps forward. He's about to become a man. The crowd encircled around him inches forward, craning for a better look. Children crawl beneath the forest of legs, hoping for a glimpse.

A Short Cut to Manhood, male circumcision, rite of passage, circumcision ritual, Lwemuna Village, Uganda, Uganda rituals, Mount Elgon, David BentleyIn the center of all of this is the new man. He stands triumphantly, almost defiantly, amidst the joyful chaos around him. He stares straight ahead, legs slightly spread, penis exposed. Blood drips from the one-inch cylindrical wound onto the sand placed on the ground beneath him. People congratulate him. He does not speak.

As white people must be rare guests, especially those with cameras, I'm pulled in front of the candidate. People step out of my line of sight as they encourage me take a photo I'm not eager to have. I snap the picture as fast as my camera will take it, thank the candidate and press 1,000 shillings (about half an American dollar) into his hand. The congratulatory contributions are used for antibiotics and bandages. Changing the bandages is far more painful, I’m told, than the circumcision itself.

He had the option to do this in a hospital with anesthetic but that’s considered the coward’s way out - if someone chooses that option they never mention that they have been circumcised. Though all male circumcision is practical since it reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 76%, hospital circumcisions are not brave, not a rite of passage and certainly not worth celebrating. This is.

After numerous handshakes, slaps on the back, and congratulatory words, the candidate’s stoicism disappears. He slumps onto a stool, his lower body wrapped in a loose sarong. He lowers his head. Exhaustion and relief seem to wash over him.

Meanwhile the celebration continues around him, without him. The men are drinking homemade beer from phallic-shaped gourds, the women are dancing, and the children are running about. The candidate pays no attention. He’s done enough for today.

©David Bentley

(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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