Among the remaining communities, the Indians are fairly evenly spread, the Asians generally don't, the white community is divided ito basically Afrikaans speaking people and the English speaking commonity. Of these two, the Afikaans people have always 'till now been very against circumcising. This has been changing of late (20 years or so back). The English speaking community has traditionally been very pro. I attended English language primary and secondary schools, and 90% of the boys had been circumcised. It was noted by everyone, who was not circumcised. This made it even more difficult for me to keep my foreskin pulled back, I now had to pull it forward over the head whenever there was a chance that my cock might be seen by other guys. ONLY circumcised guys were allowed to have exposed glanses.
Doctors in South Africa are fairly divided over circumcision, but it is still not a problem to get your son circumcised, with many being very pro-circumcision. I was circumcised by a urologist who is very pro. There was was even a G.P. who advertised in Hustler magazine that he willingly does them. (+- $50) If they are charging so much in the U.K. , maybe a visit to S.A. is cheaper!!
I am a white South African who was born and grew up in Johannesburg. From a general recall from statistics at my schools (English middle class) I'd say that there were VERY FEW uncut males - probably about 75% cut (Routine infant circumcision (RIC) not related to religion). All the males in our large extended family had RIC done at birth. It's a gift to our girlfriends as it's definitely a cleaner preferred option. My son (expected in a few months) will definitely be done, chiefly at the request of his mother.
I am a newly qualified medical doctor who has been
working in the East of South Africa for the last few months. I have always had a
bit of an interest in the topic of circumcision, having been done at birth like
most of the guys my age. I am at present doing a year in the ‘sticks’ out of
my home town Johannesburg. As I am a junior member of the medical staff I have
been assigned the arduous task of performing circumcisions on many of the local
tribe boys who have come of age. These kids come from Tswana, Sotho, Pedi and
Xhosa tribes in the vicinity. It has been quite interesting especially
considering that most of the black staff are thrilled that I have myself been
circumcised too. Many of the local ladies work as au pairs (or maids) for the
families in Johannesburg as an income. They indicate that most of the white boys
in the bigger towns have been circumcised and they often ask me why at birth as
opposed to the teens like the black boys here. I just say it’s probably easier
(and less painful) our way! But either way I believe is good provided it’s
done in a clean safe painless environment.
Anyway, the press in South Africa only mention
traditional circumcision at that time of the year when it is most practiced.
Most of these traditional circs are done in the school holidays of July and
December. There have been several reports damning the old school of thought that
one scalpel for several tens of circumcisions is the correct way to do it. With
the spread of HIV this obviously needed to be revised. Our hospital does several
circumcisions a day, increasing during the holidays to about fifteen. Another
guy doctor from Jo’burg too does the surgery too. Also circumcised as a baby.
I feel you need to have undergone a circumcision before you can advocate it to
others. Anyhow, we mostly use the freehand or forceps guided scalpel method as
we do not have any other instruments to use. The cosmetic results are also good.
We have been most fortunate that we have started to turn the tide away from the
risky traditional circumcisions of the past, to those done by ourselves in the
hospital where the risks of HIV are eradicated. This
has been difficult, as many elders believe that to have it done under anesthetic
in a hospital negates the whole circumcision procedure. Obviously one does not wish to stop the act of circumcision as
the coming of age. This in itself is a great tradition for the locals, passed on
with pride for centuries. Rather the risks associated with it need to be minimized.
We perform the surgery under local anesthetic most times. I make sure that each
boy goes home with a good result too.
I am a South African Indian (one whose ancestors were from India). I am 19 years old (2003). I was circumcised at birth which is strange for two reasons, one there was nothing wrong with me at the time and two the only ‘Indians’ who circumcise are the Muslims (I’m Hindu). My penis was as far as I can remember always different to my brothers’ but was never really bothered about it. When I was in primary school (grade 5) I recall that during a physical examination I noticed that nearly 75% of the boys were circumcised or had penises like my one. I learned about circumcision later that year when we had a talk about puberty. I realized that of the 75% of the boys whom were cut, approximately half of them were non-Muslims, in fact all of them were Hindu. Years passed and I was in high school. I met new friends and like my primary school, the students in high school were 99% ‘Indian’. Here too I found that the circumcision rate was approximately 75-80 percent. My ambition was to become a doctor and the subject of circumcision became a subconscious interest. I assumed the circumcision rate in South Africa to be about 30%. My two nephews attend an exclusive primary/high school which has some Jewish origins and I noticed that they were both were circumcised and I assume that this is a prerequisite for the admission of boys into this school. I also noticed that many of my cousins (who are younger than I) are circumcised with exception of one who was circumcised later due to a problem. I believe it has become a trend in my family to circumcise the boys, many of my relatives have chosen circumcision for their newborn sons. It seems to me that the Hindus in South Africa are turning to circumcision. It is very strange considering that in India, the Hindu’s hate circumcision. I hated the fact that that I was circumcised and wondered why it was done to me. I though of possible reasons and one was a very common throughout the males it was around ie. We were all from middle to upper class families.
In a gym I joined, I noticed that nearly all of the Whites there were circumcised. That led me to work out the circumcision rate in S.A. to be now at 40% - well I don’t have proper statistics and is based purely on an assumption. Anyway, I am now content with my penis and I would be happy cut or not. As far as my opinion of circumcision stands at neutral.
Durban, South Africa
Kevin, 37 here, South African, cut. Although I was cut ritually when I was 19, a large percentage of Caucasians here are cut, Id say at least 40%.
U.S. Presidents Plan Encourages Circumcision
The New Times (Kigali)
29 November 2007
Edwin Musoni and Florence Mutesi Kigali
The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) has requested beneficiary governments to draft policies that encourage male circumcision to reduce on the risks of spreading of HIV/Aids.
The Principal Deputy Coordinator of PEPFAR, Dr Thomas Kenyon, said via a video link from the U.S., that PEPFAR was prepared to provide funds to any country that is willing to undertake mass male circumcision, Dr Kenyon said. He was on Monday speaking to an audience at the American Embassy offices in Kigali where the teleconference was organised. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently recommended male circumcision as one of the measures to reduce the risks of acquiring HIV virus. The organization said circumcised men have around 60 percent chances of not acquiring the virus during sexual intercourse. "We can only release the funds for circumcision to a country which has come up with a clear policy on how it is going to carry out the exercise. The policy document has to clearly indicate the health facilities that would be used to conduct the exercise," Kenyon said. Rwanda recently announced a plan to conduct mass male circumcision as one of the ways to reduce risks of acquiring HIV among men. Dr Kenyon said that Rwanda has registered great success compared to the other PEPFAR's 15 focus countries. He said: "We highly appreciate the government of Rwanda for their effort in fight against HIV/Aids, we will continue working closely with all stakeholders in the fight against this pandemic." Asked whether PEPFAR would continue after President George Bush's government, Kenyon said: "The fund would definitely continue after President Bush's government mandate that is expected to end by 2009. We have developed a long term plan and I assure you the President Aids Plan has no time limit." "By doing this, the President challenged other G8 members," Kenyon added. The project, he said, will also continue to support capacity building in different dimensions and provision of Antiretroviral drugs. He also said that his government is willing to finance Aids research initiatives among the PEFPAR recipient nations worldwide. PEPFAR was initiated by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2003, with a total funding amounting to $15 billion to support anti-Aids programmes in fifteen countries worldwide, thirteen of them in Africa, including Rwanda. In Rwanda alone, PAPFAR's engagements are worth $167 million (about Frw70 billion), and the project supports about 40 community and faith-based health schemes.
As I have posted before, I live in South Africa, and have witnessed a couple of tribal circumcisions being done in the Transkei, where I live. I have also cut many frenulums, as well have having my own cut by a tribal circumciser. Almost all my friends, (both uncut and cut) have had their frenulums cut by me, a sort of manhood, brotherhood, bonding thing, after all this is Africa.
Im attaching a pic of where I come from.
Fred Phelan (South Africa)
TEASED BY HIS COLLEAGUES - EDDIE DECIDES TO CUT IT FINE
New Respect from black peers since circumcision.
Eddie Wiggins was not cut out to be a new South African but then things changed.
Eddie one of the few whites employed by the Eastern Cape legislature was virtually the only male employee who was not circumcised.
All his Xhosa male co-workers had been through traditional initiation rites which include circumcision. So they treated him as if they were a cut above him. After months of merciless teasing by his colleagues, Eddie 27 could take it no longer.
He decided to promote unity in South Africa, that he would be circumcised in a true African tradition. And while he was at it he decided to have his three-year-old son Harley circumcised too, to prevent the boy from experiencing any future embarrassment.
As a bonus Eddie found that after his operation that it not only improved his relations at work, but it also improved his sex life. "My wife fully supported me in my decision." "Being circumcised has really improved my sex life," he said.
Back at work Eddie says he has gained new respect among his black co-workers. He recalled how the teasing started when he began working in the committees section of the legislature. "The black guys in the corridor would ask me if I had been circumcised. When I told them no I was accused of being a "kwedini" (small boy). He said he would often be excluded from conversations because he was a small boy. " In the Xhosa tradition you are not considered a man unless you have been circumcised, " he said.
In January Eddie decided to end the teasing for once and for all and he booked his son and himself into the St Dominic Hospital in East London. Asked why his son was also circumcised he said, " I wanted to spare him the embarrassment of being teased by our colleagues in the new South Africa". Tired of the division between black and white, he said: "Since I was a small child, I was opposed to apartheid and I wanted my child to grow up in an anti apartheid environment.
Of his circumcision operation Eddie had this to say. " It took me two weeks to recover. The pain was excruciating and I had to take leave." But he says he is glad he is now cut out for the new South Africa. Its much more healthier and I am getting much more respect from my colleagues. "They see me as an "Indoda" (a man) and will now strike up a conversation with me.
After the operation Eddies colleagues decided that had to "make mgidi" a Xhosa ceremony following initiation." If you have been circumcised in the bush, you have to buy a couple of bottles of brandy for the woman who helped you build your shack and the man who did the cutting. Although Eddie did not have the operation in the bush, he nonetheless decided to stick to the alcoholic tradition. " I called a couple of guys and I bought some brandy." After work had finished for the day we drank it and my colleagues welcomed me into manhood. "They said they were proud to see a white man respecting their custom."
Maasai Teen Circumcision Rituals
An extensive report on Maasai circumcision tradition and the detailed account of Samuel's circumcision at age 14.
A Month in East Africa
I've just returned from nearly a month in East Africa, where I picked up some information about circumcision practices amongst different tribes.
Firstly, my driver in Kenya, Steven, was a member of the Kikuyu tribe and very proud of it, as well as being fiercely pro-circumcision. He was onto the subject within half an hour of picking me up, and could easily be persuaded to return to the topic by mentioning a rival tribe, the Luo, who traditionally do not circumcise and are therefore considered non-people by the Kikuyu. Steven was cut at the age of 15; I asked if he'd had it done in hospital but he said no, he'd been unlucky because his grandfather was a traditional circumciser - anything other than the traditional method was unthinkable in his family. So he and his younger brother were cut on a river bank, one leg dug into the clay in front, the other bent back behind them. I believe that he said he took about 2 weeks to heal.
A little later, while on a political conversation, he came to the Luo question. In Kenya the thinking classes loathe President Moi and his ruling party, but because of tribal differences have never mustered a unified opposition to get him out. Both Kikuyu and Luo opposition parties are quite big, but can't agree to cooperate, partly because of the circumcision problem; the Kikuyu declare that an uncircumcised person can never lead them. To get round this, it seems that several Luo politicians have had themselves cut, and the practice is becoming more frequent amongst the general Luo population as they realize that uncut men are regarded as inferior by the majority of their compatriots. (Only the Luo and Turkana tribes out of 45 tribes in Kenya, do not traditionally circumcise). I asked Steven if, as an uncircumcised person, I would be able to have sex with a Kikuyu woman; he said no, but went on to qualify it by saying that it wasn't impossible, but that she would be able to use the knowledge as a weapon against me if things didn't work out. In the past I've seen accounts of such denunciations in the Kenyan press, when an offended woman has betrayed the uncut status of her man to others, who promptly stripped him and hauled him off to the hospital for a summary trimming.
The Kenyan press is not reticent about circumcision and I saw an article recently that told how boys of one tribe (I suspect Luo) in another's home area (I forget the tribe's name) were having to be cut in the bus station and in public parks because it was considered improper and not permitted for them to be done in a building belonging to the local tribe.
A few days later I was in the forest with a guide called Sammy, from the Supot tribe, when we saw some of the beautiful black-and-white colobus monkeys. He said that they were sometimes killed to provide head-dresses for the boys to wear before going for circumcision (although these days they're usually re-used). Sammy was cut at 17, again traditionally, but he said that he would be taking his own son to hospital, and that his daughter would not be cut. Steven also said that female circumcision was no longer practiced amongst the Kikuyu (although I saw another article about a group of ultra-traditionalist women who all had it done). Later in the day we saw a group of boys running along the road waving branches, and a day or two later some who were indeed wearing colobus head-dresses and leg- and arm-bands - they were to be cut soon, said Sammy and were going round the district telling everyone about it. Apparently the ceremony is a big public occasion that everyone including the (church) minister attends - Sammy recounted that with a certain note of disapproval! I believe these boys were from the Pokot tribe - more about them and the Masai later.
The Pokot tribe live in north-west Kenya and have a bad reputation for cattle-raiding and other un-neighborly activities. Most of the tribe circumcises both boys and girls, and some practice extensive cicatrization, cutting intricate designs into their skin. This actually looks very good on a taut black skin; many of the warriors have superb bodies. We stopped to buy charcoal from a group of Pokot who were selling it by the roadside and as the boys were loading it into the car it was very obvious that they weren't cut - their loose, one piece garment (shuka) coming adrift down the side.
I mentioned this to Steve and Sammy once we were back on the road; Sammy said that some clans of Pokot do not circumcise because once upon a time a whole cohort of boys had just been done and were basically immobile when another tribe swept down on them and killed the lot. They decided from that point on that circumcision was a bad thing! The subject of the lack of underpants also came up; more sophisticated tribes think this very primitive. Sammy said that the Pokot always had very long 'tails' (penises) in consequence; Steven said that if two Kikuyu wish to have nothing further to do with each other after a disagreement, they will say 'We are like a Masai and his underpants' - meaning that we have nothing to do with each other. Next day I sat on a swarm of safari ants which rapidly invaded my shorts; they had to come off while I danced about trying to get rid of the ants. At least it gave Sammy the opportunity to observe that I wasn't a Masai in disguise; he commented that there was no problem with tight underpants. Another excellent reason to avoid boxers!
Later I went down to Tanzania, where I was in the land of the Masai. It has been a circumcision year there and parties of newly cut boys were everywhere. Instead of the distinctive red shukas they wear black, often intricately painting their faces with white, and sometimes wearing a headdress of ostrich feathers. Once they've healed sufficiently, bands of newly cut boys roam about the countryside in a sort of bonding exercise, and are a very conspicuous sight. Out in the bush one day I came across a group of five of these 'boys in black' who waved me down for a lift. I already had several Masai in the back, but I wanted to observe the newly cut boys at close quarters, so I stopped and said they could have a lift if I could take a photograph of them. They agreed, but the roll of film got lost later!! They piled into the back, showing no sign of discomfort despite the awkward seating arrangements, and were giggling and laughing. I asked them when they'd been cut but they didn't understand my Swahili; one of the other passengers said they'd been done about a month before. I hoped that I might get a look at a new-cut cock as they clambered out of the car, but they managed their shukas very well and all I got was a glimpse of a 'tie' - the flap of foreskin left dangling beneath the glans in a Masai circumcision. It reminded me a bat's wing, with veins showing through the dark skin; the edges were healed. Unfortunately that was the best I saw this trip, although I've seen plenty of Masai cocks before. It looks very uncomfortable to me (and the pain during the operation must be awful) but I suppose it retains the famous inner lining of the foreskin and most of the nerves; it must also fill up the vagina and may provide some more sensation there. The Masai certainly like it and are proud of their 'tie', as they call it.
In the army I assisted with freehand circumcision of guys who wanted to be cut. Circumcision was extremely popular, and nearly universal in the South African military. We never had an unhappy customer . All were very happy with the results and reported that their foreskin had been problematic prior to the circumcision. Many soldiers asked to be cut after developing infections on 2-3 week patrols during which they could not wash thoroughly. In fact I find it amazing that some guys claim to be out of action for a couple days after being cut as my experience was that if the cut was good with no nicking of the inner shaft that the wound healed very fast with only a slight discomfort a day after the op.
Most of my work mates are also cut and very aware of who is uncut. Not that there is any discrimination but definitely an awareness amongst the guys who is cut and who is not. In fact, a recent newspaper article reported a white co-worker requested to be circumcised in order to adhere to the local tribal customs of his black workmates so they would not find him offensive.
Initially I wanted to be circumcised due to peer pressure and the desire to conform but after noticing all the changes/improvements my fellow soldiers reported after being cut, I developed an interest in the subject. The procedure was performed when I was 25 and was not painful. Many circumcisions performed in the hospital on infants and pre-pubescent boys are often done with the Gomco clamp, although I hear that they will begin testing the new Tara Klamp soon, with hope of also providing it to the tribal groups that routinely circumcise their males in the bush.
Excerpted from My Life as a Masai Warrior
by Tepilit Ole Saitoti
"Tepilit, circumcision means a sharp knife cutting into the skin of the most sensitive part of your body. You must not budge; don't move a muscle or even blink. You can face only one direction until the operation is completed. The slightest movement on your part will mean you are a coward, incompetent and unworthy to be a Maasai man. Ours has always been a proud family, and we would like to keep it that way. We will not tolerate unnecessary embarrassment, so you had better be ready. If you are not, tell us now so that we will not proceed. Imagine yourself alone remaining uncircumcised like the water youth [white people]. I hear they are not circumcised. Such a thing is not known in Maasailand; therefore, circumcision will have to take place even if it means holding you down until it is completed."
My father continued to speak and every one of us kept quiet. "The pain you will feel is symbolic. There is a deeper meaning in all this. Circumcision means a break between childhood and adulthood. For the first time in your life, you are regarded as a grownup, a complete man or woman. You will be expected to give and not just to receive. To protect the family always, not just to be protected yourself. And your wise judgment will for the first time be taken into consideration. No family affairs will be discussed without your being consulted. If you are ready for all these responsibilities, tell us now. Coming into manhood is not simply a matter of growth and maturity. It is a heavy load on your shoulders and especially a burden on the mind. Too much of this - I am done. I have said all I wanted to say. Fellows, if you have anything to add, go ahead and tell your brother, because I am through. I have spoken."
After a prolonged silence, one of my hal£brothers said awkwardly, "Face it, man... it's painful. I won't lie about it, but it is not the end. We all went through it, after all. Only blood will flow, not milk." There was laughter and my father left.
My brother Lellia said,"Men, there are many things we must acquire and preparations we must make before the ceremony, and we will need the cooperation and help of all of you. Ostrich feathers for the crown and wax for the arrows must be collected."
"Are you orkirekenyi?" one of my brothers asked. I quickly replied no, and there was laughter. Orkirekeryi is a person who has transgressed sexually. For you must not have sexual intercourse with any circumcised woman before you yourself are circumcised. You must wait until you are circumcised. If you have not waited, you will be fined. Your father, mother, and the circumciser will take a cow from you as punishment.
Just before we departed, one of my closest friends said, "If you kick the knife, you will be in trouble." There was laughter. "By the way, if you have decided to kick the circumciser, do it well. Silence him once and for all." "Do it the way you kick a football in school." "That will fix him," another added, and we all laughed our heads off again as we departed.
The following month was a month of preparation. I and others collected wax, ostrich feathers, honey to be made into honey beer for the elders to drink on the day of circumcision, and all the other required articles.
Three days before the ceremony my head was shaved and I discarded all my belongings, such as my necklaces, garments, spear, and sword. I even had to shave my pubic hair. Circumcision in many ways is similar to Christian baptism. You must put all the sins you have committed during chilhood behind and embark as a new person with a different outlook on a new life.
The circumciser came the following day and handed the ritual knives to me. He left drinking a calabash of beer. I stared at the knives uneasily. It was hard to accept that he was going to use them on my organ. I was to sharpen them and protect them from people of ill will who might try to blunt them, thus rendering them inefficient duting the ritual and thereby bringing shame on our family. The knives threw a chill down my spine; I was not sure I was sharpening them properly, so I took them to my closest brother for him to check out, and he assured me that the knives were all right. I hid them well and waited.
Tension started building between me and my relatives, most of whom worried that I wouldn't make it through the ceremony valiantly. Some even snarled at me, which was their way of encouraging me. Others threw insults and abusive words my way. My sister Loiyan in particular was more troubled by the whole affair than anyone in the whole family. She had to assume my mother's role during the circumcision. Were I to fail my initiation, she would have to face the consequences. She would be spat upon and even beaten for representing the mother of an unworthy son. The same fate would befall my father, but he seemed unconcerned. He had this weird belief that because I was not particularly handsome, I must be brave. He kept saying, "God is not so bad as to have made him ugly and a coward at the same time."
Failure to be brave during circumcision would have other unfortunate consequences: the herd of cattle belonging to the family still in the compound would be beaten until they stampeded; the slaughtered oxen and honey beer prepared during the month before the ritual would go to waste; the initiate's food would be spat upon and he would have to eat it or else get a severe beating. Everyone would call him Olkasiodoi, the knife kicker.
Kicking the knife of the circumciser would not help you anyway. If you struggle and try to get away during the ritual, you will be held down until the operation is completed. Such a failure of nerve would haunt you in the future. For example, no one will choose a person who kicked the knife for a position of leadership. However, there have been instances in which a person who failed to go through circumcision successfully became very brave afterwards because he was filled with anger over the incident; no one dares to scold him or remind him of it. His agemates, particularly the warriors, will act as if nothing had happened.
During the circumcision of a woman, on the other hand, she is allowed to cry as long as she does not hinder the operation. It is common to see a woman crying and kicking during circumcision. Warriors are usually summoned to help hold her down.
For woman, circumcision means an end to the company of Maasai warriors. After they recuperate, they soon get married, and often to men twice their age. The closer it came to the hour of truth, the more I was hated, particularly by those closest to me. I was deeply troubled by the withdrawal of all the support I needed. My annoyance turned into anger and resolve. I decided not to budge or blink, even if I were to see my intestines flowing before me. My resolve was hardened when newly circumcised warriors came to sing for me. Their songs were utterly insulting, intended to annoy me further. They tucked their wax arrows under my crotch and rubbed them on my nose. They repeatedly called me names.
By the end of the singing, I was fuming. Crying would have meant I was a coward. After midnight they left me alone and I went into the house and tried to sleep but could not. I was exhausted and numb but remained awake all night.
At dawn I was summoned once again by the newly circumcised warriors. They piled more and more insults on me. They sang their weird songs with even more vigor and excitement than before. The songs praised warriorhood and encouraged one to achieve it at all costs. The songs continued until the sun shone on the cattle horns clearly. I was summoned to the main cattle gate, in my hand a ritual cowhide from a cow that had been properly slaughtered during my naming ceremony. I went past Loiyan, who was milking a cow, and she muttered something. She was shaking all over. There was so much tension that people could hardly breathe.
I laid the hide down and a boy was ordered to pour ice-cold water, known as engare entolu (ax water), over my head. It dripped all over my naked body and I shook furiously. ln a matter of seconds I was summoned to sit down. A large crowd of boys and men formed a semicircle in front of me; women are not allowed to watch male circumcision and vice-versa. That was the last thing I saw clearly. As soon as I sat down, the circumciser appeared, his knives at the ready. He spread my legs and said, "One cut," a pronouncement necessary to prevent an initiate from claiming that he had been taken by surprise. He splashed a white liquid, a ceremonial paint called enturoto, across my face. Almost immediately I felt a spark of pain under my belly as the knife cut through my penis's foreskin. I happened to choose to look in the direction of the operation. I continued to observe the circumciser's fingers working mechanically. The pain became numbness and my lower body felt heavy, as if I were weighed down by a heavy burden. After fifteen minutes or so, a man who had been supporting from behind pointed at something, as if to assist the circumciser. I came to learn later that the circumciser's eyesight had been failing him and that my brothers had been mad at him because the operation had taken longer than was usually necessary. All the same, I remained pinned down until the operation was over. I heard a call for milk to wash the knives, which signaled the end, and soon the ceremony was over.
With words of praise, I was told to wake up, but I remained seated. I waited for the customary presents in appreciation of my bravery. My father gave me a cow and so did my brother Lillia. The man who had supported my back and my brother-in-law gave me a heifer. In all I had eight animals given to me. I was carried inside the house to my own bed to recuperate as activities intensified to celebrate my bravery. I laid on my own bed and bled profusely. The blood must be retained within the bed, for according to Maasai tradition, it must not spill to the ground. I was drenched in my own blood. I stopped bleeding after about half an hour but soon was in intolerable pain. I was supposed to squeeze my organ and force blood to flow out of the wound, but no one had told me, so the blood coagulated and caused unbearable pain. The circumciser was brought to my aid and showed me what to do, and soon the pain subsided.
Excerpts from: Tent With A View
The following is an eyewitness account of the circumcision of a Masai youth named Kardasha as told by Robert Vavra in his book "Tent With A View" published by William Morrow and Co., New York, 1991. Kardasha was in his late teens. He had not been circumcised earlier because his parents could not pay Kirek, the circumciser. Vavra befriended the young man and agreed to pay the fee. Circumcisees are required not to flinch, grimace or in any way show pain. One can only imagine the intense pain from this prolonged surgery. Youths start practicing pain control at an early age by placing hot coals on their legs. You can see the foreskin wattle hanging below the penis. Photos can be found in a book titled "Africa Adorned" by Angela Fisher published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1984 (1992 reprint) on pages 18 and 21.
"Now produced was a ceramic pot, which the night before had been filled with cold water and into which had been placed a small metal hide scraper to increase the chill. The liquid content of this vessel was poured over Karkasha's cleanly shaved head. The effect of the icy water, Milton told me, combined with the morning cold, is just enough to jolt the already psyched-out mind and body into a semi-conscious state of shock. Ole Pirianoi, the holder, now stood behind Kardasha and, with his arms, circled our friend's chest. At this instant, Kardasha's body collapsed as if in a faint, eyes shut, chin resting on chest, limbs flaccid, and he was half carried, his heels furrowing the dung, to the special hide that was stretched out on the ground. This skin had been positioned between two planted branches selected from a ceremonial tree.
The Ndorobo surgeon, Ole Kirek, squatting between Kardasha's spread legs, dipped his thumb into a slim gourd of lime and marked our friend's nose with a white line. The frenzied bird boys chanted threats fused with encouragement, which would continue throughout the operation, building in rapidity and volume, while elders, preparing for the worst, cast doubt on Kardasha's bravery.
The Ndorobo was now fingering and peeling back Kardasha's foreskin. This operation could be divided into five steps:
"At three in the afternoon, Kardasha, emerging from the darkness of the hut and the shock of his ordeal, blinked into the harsh sunlight, which now lit the man who hours before had been a boy. Escorted by the Ndorobo to outside the family gate, he again sat on the ground, surrounded by age-mates and elders, while Ole Kirek's slender fingers once more touched the bloody foreskin, this time for inspection, hopeful of approval. If the swollen, hemorraged skin had been improperly or unartistically sliced, the circumcision would be repeated and corrected".
Circumcision Changing in Africa
QWEQWE, South Africa -- The youth prepares to enter a mud hut for a ceremony his tribe says will bring him to adulthood. A dozen men inside, white clay smeared on their faces and chests, sing ominous lyrics. "This place is bad.This is the hut of pain," they sing. "A killer's knife is here."
Minutes later, with the slice of a razor-sharp blade, the youth's foreskin is gone, and so -- according to Xhosa tribal tradition -- is his boyhood.
There is no anesthetic, but the youth doesn't utter a sound as he sits on a blanket, his head averted while the "initiation doctor" makes the cut.
To cry out would bring enduring shame. Female circumcision in Africa has recently come under fire because it mutilates women, often depriving them of sexual pleasure and making themvulnerable to disease. Male circumcision, commonly done around the world at infancy for hygienic reasons, has no lasting effects when properly done.
But in many parts of Africa, male circumcisions are being performed in the most primitive conditions as a rite of manhood. With authorities beginning to call for regulating the practice, an Associated Press writer and photographer were recently permitted a rare look by outsiders at the ancient ritual - one which is already changing.
Dlamini Guntsu, a 60-year-old with a gray goatee and wearing a T-shirt and tattered pants over his lean frame, has circumcised hundreds of boys with his assegai, the Xhosa word for spear. "If you have a line of boys, you must do it fast, so they don't know what's happening. When they realize the other boys are going through such pain, it's already over," says Guntsu, who lives in Qweqwe, a tiny village in the Transkei region of eastern South Africa.
Like most initiation doctors, Guntsu has no formal training. He is paid 30 rand ($6.50) and a bottle of brandy for each circumcision. Many prominent men have undergone the ritual. President Nelson Mandela remembers in minute detail undergoing "the essential step in the life of every Xhosa man" 63 years ago. "Before I knew it, the old man was kneeling in front of me. ... His hands moved so fast they seemed to be controlled by an otherworldly force,"
Mandela said in his autobiography. "Without a word, he took my foreskin, pulled it forward, and then, in a single motion, brought down his assegai. I felt as if fire were shooting through my veins." Days after being circumcised, Mornay Myira is recovering in an initiation hut built on sweeping grasslands. As the sun descends behind a range of buttes, the hut - illuminated only by a window and a candle - grows dark. Myira is streaked with white clay, symbolizing purity. A poultice of leaves covers his wound.
"The first four days after I was circumcised were hell," says Myira, a college student. "I had to change the dressing every few hours. It was constant pain. I couldn't sleep. Plus we're not given water so I was extremely dehydrated." Like many initiates, Myira swallowed his severed foreskin. "If you throw it away, an evil spirit can cook it up, to make you die in the initiation hut and never leave here alive," he says. Like many of his peers, he believes in witchcraft. In the initiation huts, the youths heal, reflect on their lives and learn about the role of men in Xhosa society. They are allowed no clothes, only a blanket.
Virtually all Xhosa males, whether they live in the cities or the countryside, are ritually circumcised. If they are not, or if it is done in a hospital, they remain boys in the tribe's eyes and are denied the respect accorded to men. The ritual allows the Xhosa and other tribes to retain their age-old customs. But the 20th century has forced some changes. Because many Xhosa attend school or have jobs, the time spent in the initiation huts has been reduced from several months to about three weeks. Before, ritual circumcisers used a single unsterilized knife on several youths. But Guntsu stopped doing that after learning AIDS can be transmitted through blood and now uses a different knife on each boy. Such precautions may soon be required by the government of Eastern Cape province, which includes the traditional Xhosa homeland.
"We are looking at registering practitioners and giving them basic courses in hygiene, and this may well happen this year," says Dr. Trudy Thomas, the Eastern Cape health minister. "We need to regulate the initiation tradition, without undermining it." Partly because governments are reluctant to intervene in tribal customs, ritual male circumcisions are rarely regulated in Africa.
Guntsu's use of safe procedures, meanwhile, may be bringing him more customers. Shadrack Jamangile, a truck driver, brought his three sons to Guntsu after hearing he uses sterilized knives. Jamangile's local practitioner does not.
When Jamangile arrives to take his three sons home, he's proud at their entrance to manhood but, even more, relieved that they appear fine. "When you bring your child in here, you're worried, because you don't know what the end result will be," Jamangile says. "Today I feel happy because my sons are healthy."
Naturalist and Safari Guide's Notes on Circumcision Among African Tribal Peoples
I am a naturalist by profession and also involved in the general study of African tribes for my job as a safari guide. Circumcision generates much debate and even dislike between adjacent communities of similar cultures in Africa.
(a) There is a variation on circumcision technique that used to be widely practiced by the Maasai and allied tribes in Kenya. In this the foreskin is not cut around its circumference. Rather a heart shaped piece was cut from the dorsal side of the penis, above the glans, with the wider portion being about 1/2 or 2/3rds the circumference of the glans. The skin was then trimmed downwards, giving the final product the appearance of a small hanging "V". In more traditional Maasai clans, even that trimming operation was bypassed. After the heart shaped dorsal cut about the size of a pound coin, the glans was pushed through the opening and the rest of the prepuce, including the portion of intact preputial urinary passage, merely left hanging under the ventral side of the glans. The Maasai and others held that circumcision fulfilled conditions of (a) hygiene without (b) any interference with pleasure, and rather that sexual pleasure was enhanced, for the male at least, by this technique. Readers may also be interested in Nigel Pavitt's 1991 book SAMBURU. It is a stunning color photo ethnology book dealing with the the Samburu of Kenya. There is an entire chapter (with photos) dealing with a large tribal gathering (possibly the last ever to be held) where young adults are circumcised. The method is somewhat different: after clearing any adhesions, the foreskin is pulled forward and a slit like a button hole is made. The glans is pushed through the hole and the remaining skin forms a sort of beard or necktie.
(b) The Turkana tribe of Northern Kenya has, after a study of 34 racial groups around the world, been shown in a recent American study to be the oldest society of humans so far to be traced by DNA tests . The Turkana do not circumcise and traditionally went around stark naked all their lives. I do not know of any African tribe which went "buck" naked in it's culture history and which did circumcise. Those that I know of who circumcise at least have rudimentary garments to cover their genitals. What needs to be explored is why? There is a clue: the Turkana consider a man to be naked only if the foreskin is retracted - it is the embarrassing counterpart of having one's fly undone in public! When the penis is flaccid but the glans covered, a person is not "naked". If one of the functions of the glans penis is, as I suspect from simian anatomy and sexual behavior, a sexual signaling function, the circumcising tribes would require coverings for the exposed glans - and in anthropology, covered peoples tend to look upon the naked and "backwards" - this notion of "backwardness" is not confined to Eurocentric views, but found among tribal peoples themselves. The element of "cultural pride" then comes into a tribe continuing with the practice of circumcision.
The Turkana, like certain other African tribes, are noted for massive genitalia and long foreskins, such that one may suspect sexual selection for these features has taken place in evolution among these very ancient people - why? Because Turkana women widely and openly admire the men with the biggest genitalia and the non-exposure of the glans among naked peoples is facilitated by a longer foreskin. Note that among the Turkanas, as with other African tribes of Nilotic origin, the flaccid penis is actually carried at "half-erect" angle in many cases - to separate true sexual excitement from this normal condition in many Turkana males, a long prepuce is helpful. Those without might have been accused of rudeness, shunned by jealous males and subject to other cultural pressures that over a long period of social evolution might have made for selection of longer foreskins to go along with bigger, semi-erect genitalia. These thoughts were as a result of reading Stephen Jay Gould, who points out that in Darwinian terms we must differentiate between wholly natural selection and sexual selection - only by such a means can we hope to answer such obvious questions as :"Why do Maasai women have cone-shaped breasts? Why are Nordics large in the hip? Why do Oriental women have generally small breasts? etc" - because the problem is that from a strictly Darwinian point of view, there is no "advantage" whatsoever that can be determined from evolving cone-shaped breasts. But then, when we look at an animal such as the African widow bird with it's absurd long tail it grows to attract females, and we do experiments to show that the females actually do the sexual selection from males with larger and longer tails, then we see an example of sexual selection that accounts for an otherwise useless, even disadvantageous ( from a purely physical viewpoint) male widow-bird appendage.
c) This leads on to another interesting matter, and that is the role of the glans in social sexual signaling, which should be obvious from the study of simians, but seems not to have occurred to doctors and human anatomists. This idea leads on to another thought about the prepuce, that it is a cover to hide such sexual signaling when inappropriate. (Interestingly enough, African women from circumcised male tribes find the flaccid uncircumcised penis with the glans covered to be utterly un-arousing and even repellant!)
Having some knowledge of the powerful effect of inguinal and penile scent glands and their use in olfactory sexual advertisement/attraction between mammals and simians, it is my hunch that the prepuce was partly evolved for the same purpose in humans i.e. a sexual scent trap, as are the armpit hairs and pubic hair. It is true that the human penis has glands, which emit powerful odors that circumcision entirely removes, and the natural uncircumcised condition literally enhances. Not only that, but in Africans, Europeans and I would guess other races, the glans is a remarkably different colour to the rest of the skin, in the same way as are the nipples and lips, which we now acknowledge as being that way for sexual reasons (if we follow Desmond Morris, Gould etc that is!). This chromatic effect also occurs in certain primates, who also have prepuces, and again leads one to speculate that a further evolved function of the prepuce was to cover this discolouration, except for the signaling of sexual readiness i.e. erection.
The Trobriand Islanders studied by Malinowski, I believe, also went quite naked and would regularly scold any fellow male with a retracted foreskin (inadvertently of course) as "naked". Speculations can abound and become ludicrous, but note that New Guinean tribes, as you have pointed out, often lengthen the foreskin if they can. Otherwise they hide it in a penile sheath of gourd. It must be very inconvenient being nude, being subject to erection or near tumescence in stimulating circumstances that one cannot hide, and then having one's foreskin retract to general derision of the public! Perhaps this is a fanciful notion, but not impossible - for if we hold that sexual selection can account for many human differences of racial appearance (as do Gould and Morris), why not in peoples who have been naked for millennia should not the same hold with regard to foreskin and length thereof?
(d) I think you are wholly correct in your belief that hygiene/surgical reasons lie behind the origin of this operation. It is never performed on Turkanas and some other Kenyan Nilotic tribes, who have a total abhorrence of it (given their preference for nudity as noted above). However, other tribesmen and women consider uncircumcised tribes as "dirty" and the idea of sexual intercourse with them by women from tribes who do circumcise is mostly abhorrent. The circumcising tribes are, as I have noted, never stark naked in their cultural attire or lack of it - the uncircumcised tribes are therefore felt to be "primitive".
The Kikuyu do circumcise. The Kikuyu circ'd their males in annual ceremonies, and the men were forever bound together by that group experience. In fact, they got their identities from it. For example, Jomo Kenyata and other key leaders of the Mau Mau uprising were known as "the 40's" because that's the year they were all circ'd. The Luo are the only group in East Africa I know of who do not circumcise their young men.
More African circumcision rites
and the Law