Fire and feasting mark end of initiation season

Wild celebrations for boys who went to mountains and returned as men

Thousands of cattle are set to be slaughtered in the next two weeks for a massive feast as the deeply traditional and colourful AmaNdebele people celebrate the end of the initiation season‚ conducted every fourth year.

Picture: Simphiwe Nkwali

Two months ago the boys left their comfortable homes for their seclusion in the mountains where they underwent the sacred ritual of rite of passage to transform them into men.

On Sunday afternoon‚ a thick cloud of smoke hung over the bushes of the former KwaNdebele homeland in Mpumalanga‚ 100 kilometres north east of Pretoria‚ as thousands of kraals which had become temporary homes for the initiates‚ went up in flames.

In the cover of darkness‚ the initiates were then ushered into hundreds of kraals erected at the homes of various headmen all over the area.

Once in the kraal‚ the initiates‚ hundreds of them‚ break into a celebratory song announcing their return to the villagers.

They sing and dance around throughout the night around several camp fires scattered in the large kraal in preparation for a grand parade at dawn.

The parade is a massive spectacle‚ with friends‚ family and villagers lining the parade route around the kraal to spot their loved they last saw in the first parade as they left for the ritual. The crowd scream in excitement and joy when they spot someone they know in the parade.

After the parade‚ the initiates then break into several groups‚ and then head to the home of the first in line to slaughter‚ normally according to the seniority of clans‚ which then signals the beginning of the celebrations.

They spend a night at the first house then in the morning the initiate will be showered with gifts by his parents and siblings before they head to the home of the next initiate in line for celebration.

At the kraal of Ndzundza-Mabhoko Traditional Council headmen‚ Tshengi Mahlangu‚ in Mountain View‚ near KwaMhlanga‚ there were 92 initiates.

He told Timeslive that everything went well and he thanked parents for working together with him to ensure that there were minimal challenges.

“The first thing I did before the parade was thank the parents for their cooperation. However‚ I plan to hold a meeting to discuss challenges that we faced during this initiation season so that we do not wait until the next season to iron them out. Overall‚ I am happy with how everything turned out‚” he said.

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