‘Umgidi’ time to celebrate new life

Octayvia Nance

THE traditional practice of umgidi may not be well known by all South Africans but here in the Eastern Cape the Xhosa cultural event is a joyous family celebration, welcoming a boy returning as a man from the sacred custom of ulwaluko – initiation.

An umgidi is marked each year by families inviting friends and family to share traditional food and drink, while well-wishers give the young man gifts of clothes and other items for his new life.

"He is then taken and seated on an ukhukho [mat] in a kraal where men visit him and talk about his journey ahead. Then he gets placed in a room on the first day he is back and he is given time to talk to people who give him gifts to set up his future. He is also given time to reflect on what he has learnt.

"It is an exciting time for the boy who has now become a man. You have a feeling of accomplishment and are excited about the journey ahead. It is definitely a celebration of a new life.”

Kwazakhele’s Zion Christian Church member Mike Zaka, a motivational speaker invited to speak about life after the initiation process at an event hosted by Doxa Youth Programmes, gave his insight: "For Xhosa people, circumcision represents manhood. Traditional circumcision or initiation is a core element of most indigenous African cultures.

"An uncircumcised male cannot be heir to his father’s wealth, cannot marry or officiate in tribal rituals.

"Therefore, it is a huge celebration because the son is no longer a boy but a man and this, by all means, needs to be celebrated.

"It is a time to celebrate a new life because the life the son previously lived should be forgotten.”