Mulembe Nation, specifically the Bukusus and the Tachonis, are caught up in a socio-cultural tussle with the CS for Health.
The old wazees down yonder insist that they have to cut their boys who have come of age this August.CS Kagwe, on the other hand,says the timing is bad.That they cant cut because of the prevailing Covid-19 condition.
This conflict between culture and the pandemic is interesting for students of culture and society.Largely because its challenging paradigms and upsetting orders.I am following it with glee.
The Mulembe nation adheres to age old male initiation rites that have remained largely untainted for years.Not even Covid can halt it.And for that, I have lots of respect for them.
Their rite is communal, complete with the frenzied cultural razzmattaz and beats of Isukuti.It is a social glue for the various clans of the Mulembe Nation.
The process is purposefully painful.The purpose of the painful ritual- which is not limited to the Bukusus but common in most ancient cultutes- is to mortify the body as a way of understanding that the energy of the soul is indestructible.Pain ceases to be pain to who has given it meaning and a purpose.
And therein lies the power of the initiation.
The initiation rites of Mulembe Nation are a far cry from the way we do our things in the House of Mumbi.Our male intiation is an obsolete rite- devoid of the cultural confetti it used to have say 100 years ago.
Our boys get their pencils sharpened in sanitized hospitals by clinical officers under local anaesthesia.Sometimes female ones. I can count the surviving Kikuyus who faced the knife by the river on my five fingers.
In addition,our rite is a private one- it lacks the communal fire that engulfs the initiation rites of the Bukusu.Or even those of our cousins like the Ameru or the Tharaka.
Lastly,and more importantly,our rite is devoid of the vigorous socialisation that went together with it back in the day.Its heavily censored by the modern ethos thats it has lost meaning.Heck, we even forgot the dizzying initiation songs that went with it.
In short, male initiation as carried by the House of Mumbi in modern times is no different from clipping ones fingernails.
Yet, if there is a community that discriminates others based on the cut,then its the house of Mumbi.If there are men who suffer communal hubris because of being circumcised, then they are the sons of Mumbi.
Going forward,the House of Mumbi should rethink male initiation.Its time we allowed our boys to decide whether to undergo it or not when they come of age.
Modern Kikuyu male intiation is a culturally vestigial rite.It serves no purpose other than giving Kikuyu young men a false sense of superiority over other communities that do not cut their boys in hospitals, before female nurses.