From circumcision to naked bull-jumping, here are 3 brutal rites boys go through to become men in Africa

Communitynprepares for traditional male circumcision ceremony which is a rite of passage among the Xhosa people in South Africa
  • Throughout history, there have been many methods crafted to turn boys into men. 
  • These rites of passages are often designed to be agonizing to prove that these young men are prepared to transition to adulthood.
  • Once they pass, they are seen and treated with the respect reserved for grownups. 

All over the world, there are certain practices and rituals designed to mark the shift from boy to man.

Business Insider SSA takes a look at some of these painful rites of passage rituals that existed (and in some cases still exist) in Africa:

  • Male circumcision (South Africa)

When it is time for a boy to become a man among the Xhosa people, the abakwetha (male initiate) is shaved and without any preparation, the surgeon conducts the circumcision often with a dull blade.

Next, he is taken to the mountains where he lives in a hut for the next several weeks. This hut is built for him by his family to keep insects and animals away and reduce the risk of infection.

The abakwetha is not allowed to eat or drink water until he is completely healed.

  • Scarification (Tanzania)

Upon reaching puberty, boys in the nomadic Barabaig tribe of the Datooga people based in Tanzania would have their heads shaved.

Next, their foreheads would be cut with three deep horizontal incisions. Their faces are also scarred.

These scars go down to the bone and sometimes deep enough to show up on the skulls. They extend from ear to ear.

These permanent scars are called "gar." They separate boys from men which is why they wear it with pride.

  • Naked bull jumping (Ethiopia)

Among the Karo tribe, males are required to jump over several bulls, naked. This ritual is not just for boys, every male has to do it even if he is already full-grown.

Anyone who does not do this is still considered a boy until he performs the bull-jumping ceremony. This means children who were born before their fathers participated in the initiation ritual are considered illegitimate and have to be killed via a certain practice called Mingi.

The babies' mouths are filled with soil and left in the wilderness to die. Performing the bull-jumping ritual means Karo men can marry and then have legitimate children.

Males from the Hamar tribe of Ethiopia also have to jump over a herd of cattle to become men.


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