Foreighn Movie That Has The Song Different Ways By S.H.E The Cutting Edge – Observation of a Maasai Male Circumcision Ceremony

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The Cutting Edge – Observation of a Maasai Male Circumcision Ceremony

it’s night Not just any night, but a “bush” night which means the only light is the fluttering licks of the flames and the steady, faint glow of the few kerosene lamps around the camp. We sip ours Chai (Tea) and kahaua (Coffee) To warm our insides against the wind that sweeps across the plains of Simanjiro as our Maasai friends, Altarera and Laiyo, hurry us on our way…we are lagging behind.

We jump at the sound of our voice. Our ill-mannered Maasai friends comically and desperately try to negotiate the two front seats for me and my sister to no avail, and reluctantly hop in the back. We drive into the night searching for the glow of the eyes in our headlamps, twisting and turning along the unforgiving road. There is no one in our way, no one crossing our paths, no one hitchhiking like they do out here in the daytime. It’s about 9pm when we arrive at boom (Maasai village) and we quickly find out that we missed it – the ceremony is over. now what?

We sit in the car, surrounded by Masai, waiting for Hassan to determine our next move, occasionally greeting a faceless arm that curiously navigates its way through the pitch black and to the window. I find myself wondering how they live in such darkness at night when I realize that I have been screwed by modern technology. Outside our car, there is a meeting of sorts, we hear the muttering; The torch turns on and off – briefly revealing a face, eyes and set of teeth, but that’s about it. Besides, it’s the night that prevails. Hassan got out of the car, talking to the elders and doing his necessary PR to get us permission to enter the ceremony. Every now and then he sticks his head in to update us, “…there were already four circumcised boys here…all unable to walk and in beds…the doctor is still here…we have been invited to another ceremony…”. Then he returns to the abyss of darkness.

It is important to note that among the Maasai respect and communication are not only is very important, but two forces dominate their lives. The first half of each meeting is usually devoted to greetings and formalities. Nothing is too important to rush; Here we are in “Africa Time”, so we continue to wait. It was decided after discussion and clarification with the elders that we would follow the doctor (is he certified?! I’m not sure…) Levoma is a neighbor about an hour and a half drive away. Once again flashlights light our way and we take off after the doctor and his team. While I mentioned that nothing is too important to rush, I did not say that nothing is too important to rush To. I had never (up to this point) seen any African show any sense of urgency, but this doctor put new meaning to the phrase “…racket out of hell”. Our vehicle occasionally slows down to gently maneuver over bumps or a hole in the road and within seconds the faint red taillights we are following are out of sight. On many occasions we are left with only his settled dust to follow. Then, like a beacon in a storm, we spot the lights in the distance, the car zigzagging its way across the bush. The hour-long chase (as it turned out) is broken up by some crouching hyenas walking across the road and (finally) when the “getaway” car breaks down due to a broken front axle (shocking). This led us to be the exclusive vehicle, and immediately promoted us from being mere observers of the ceremony, to its actual heralds! I, more grim in my metaphor, likened us to the episodes of the apocalypse for these young boys about to go through what I imagine is excruciating pain.

We arrive at the boom with butterflies in our stomachs, again into complete darkness, to the faint sound of rhythmic and ominous chants. “It must be the boys about to be cut…” I guess in a whisper. But as we get closer to the sound we see a table against the moonlight of a group of about eight Moreni (Maasai warriors) in a circle (a circle is usually how they not only build their villages but also their rituals). The vocals and chorus never falter, with one vocalist shouting a solo and the others ringing in unison afterward. The sound is guttural and mesmerizing – actually quite captivating and beautiful even though the Maasai language is foreign to us. After inquiry, we discover that the Morani are not singing at all, but are verbally insulting the two Leonie (uncircumcised) who are completely naked at the center of it all. We learn from warehouse that this was done in attempts to irritate the boys enough to endure the pain that awaits them, the nudity is to expose them to the cold in an effort to numb them. The whole tribulation may be compared to a fraternal obscurity; However, you can imagine the college “bonding” ceremony pales in comparison to this venerable and ancient rite of passage.

Another click of a flashlight confirms this: in the center of the circle are two hoarse and trembling bodies, their thin arms crossing over their bodies. The light went out again. The chant continued and another light waved revealing chattering teeth (it freezing) and the white of their eyes. I’m so nervous for these two boys that I find myself overwhelmed by the weight of the moment ahead. Circumcision is done with a razor, without any anesthesia, and if a child utters a howl, flinches or hints at a tear – he fails this test and is expelled from the village, which brings great shame to his family. I can’t help but think that these young boys (ages 9 and 13) are too young to carry such a huge responsibility.

Finally the time comes to wash them and my friend, Leiyu, takes me by the hand to the area outside the boma where the ceremony is supposed to take place. This is done outside the village because only after they are circumcised can they be invited back to the boma, this time as men. The doctor now has a torch and the area is fairly well lit. The boma people begin to crowd in as two cowhide mats are placed on the ground as each scurrying child is led to one. The women are in their huts (it is forbidden to watch this ceremony) – the wails of the mothers punctuate the screaming wind. You can compare the feeling I have in the pit of my stomach to this feeling you get while watching a movie where some brave character is stoically led to the guillotine – of sadness, anxiety and a desire to end the whole ordeal. As soon as possible.

The boys sit on the mats, their legs spread out in front of them, their upper bodies in David’s strong arms. In this particular case, their faces are covered Shukas (Traditional Maasai cloth). I hold my breath. The doctor reveals a fresh razor that glimmers in the light and is in no hurry to cut. The first child is tough, not even twisting a finger or clenching a fist while the razor makes its cuts. My tense body does not relax until I find that he has passed. His mother must have picked up on it too; Her song-like wails of pride, joy and relief echo into the night.

The second child, the very young, has his stomach in my throat with the first cut as he lets out a shallow gasp of air that sounds like breathing through clenched teeth. He pulls out a few more of these and I’m almost certain he’s tearing up. When all is said and done, the elders spit on the ground around him, forcing me to believe he has failed, but I am wrong. Spitting is a form of respect, and the little boy (who, we later learn, is given some leeway because of his very young age) has shown his vigor and courage.

They marry into recovery with their expectant mothers and it’s over. The actual circumcision only lasted about 15 minutes, but we find that the obscure section we entered had been going on since 6:00pm (it was now after midnight), so it’s actually an all-day event.

The whole ordeal left me with a surreal feeling that only overshadowed the immense relief I felt for each child. I felt immediately connected to the Maasai and especially the boys for allowing us to witness the most important event in a Maasai man’s life. It was unbelievably humbling and reminded me of how beneficial and socially reinforcing period rituals are. I cannot think of a single event in the life of the average American that has the social significance of this event I have just described. I can’t help but feel that maybe we are missing this idea or structure that strengthens bonds and builds character in the way that Maasai circumcision does. It was not barbarous, rude, pagan, or fanatical; It was, in fact, the opposite. The rarest event I’ve been lucky enough to witness is not only soul-building, pride-boosting and so admirable… it is, in a way, even Pretty.

If you would like more information on how to experience something similar yourself, please get in touch Safari Tropical Trails Company Located in Arusha, Tanzania.

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