Yithi Uyindoda! (Say, you are a man!) : an ethnographic study on the religion and masculinities in initiation schools in Cape Town Townships


Date: October 27, 2014
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This thesis investigates the construction of masculinity in the Xhosa initiation school (ulwaluko) in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa from a religio-cultural perspective. This ethnographic study utilized interviews with participants, observations of the initiation school, and is also complemented with documents that are written by Xhosa authors Thando Mqolozana, Nelson Mandela, Peter Mtuze, and A.N.N. Ngxamngxa. The documentary by Mayenzeke Baza and a blog post by Xhosa journalist Luzuko Pongoma were also used. The data collection and analysis was done with the Grounded Theory Approach using Atlas.ti version 7. The ontological and epistemological premise is of the constructivist understanding. The conceptual framework is grounded within the African philosophy of Ubuntu and African religio-cultural underpinnings. A new term, ancestral masculinity, was given to depict the type of masculinity described by the findings. It is marked by participating in a ‘manhood’ rites of passage and adhering to its prescribed processes and procedures, according to the ‘living and dead’ ancestors, in order for one to be accepted and recognized as part of the community. The findings show that ancestral masculinity, in its micro context of ‘boyhood’, is a searching route to acceptance. The initiate longs and finds acceptance in the initiation school through enduring pain and fostering a relationship with his guardian and teacher (ikhankatha). Secondly, ancestral masculinity is seen as the yearning to be African in its macro-context. It was demonstrated by admonishing (ukuyala) that helps the initiated to live an exemplary life of honouring (inhlonipho) those who are living and dead. This honouring is portrayed by doing everything possible to be helpful and to accord respect and care to elders. Inhlonipho also challenges individualist accomplishment and materialist flaunting and any ills that negate relational harmony. The study reveals challenges in the ulwaluko institution and construction of masculinity, such as alcohol abuse; carelessness, neglect, and passivity by elders in the process; exclusivity that discriminates against others; and inflexibility toward other constructions of masculinity. However, opportunities are also present within this institution to encourage dialogue and reconciliation, to create flexibility, and to utilize existing values to promote social cohesion amidst the challenges of the contemporary South African context.


Publisher: University of Stellenbosch
Year of Publication: 2014
Download : 19557_ncaca_yithi_2014.pdf

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