Kakamega

By Andrew Ombuni

Every even year, a new age group is ushered in among the Bukusu, Tachoni, Sabaot and Batura communities through circumcision.

Boys celebrating after graduating to manhood

This event normally takes place in August and blood must be shed. Young foreskins have to come under the knife. The initiate is not supposed to cry as that is considered as bad omen to the family.

This year was a special one. Bukusu Council of Elders led by Richard Walukano postponed the rite of passage not ones but thrice. They were worried that the ceremony could be a breeding ground for the spread of Covid19.

Eugene W. Barasa after being initiated to manhood

The news that the elders had postponed the ceremony did not go down well with the men who initiate the boys into men. Joseph Sinino Omukongolo, the chairman of Bungoma Circumcisers Association protested the move.

“The elders did not consult us in postponing circumcision. We will go ahead and initiate the teenagers to adulthood to avoid parents taking their children to the hospital for the cut. Anyone circumcised in the hospital is a coward and cannot sit on the same table where serious decisions are being made,” said Omukongolo.

Businessman Bernard Barasa (left), his son Eugene W. Barasa and a relative. Master Wasike graduated to manhood

However, they got a new lease of life when Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe allowed the ceremony to go on as planned in strict conformity to Covid19 rules on social distance rules and public gatherings.

Unlike in the past, where the ritual would take place early in the morning between 5.00am-6.00am, parents would now invite the circumcisers at their homes to initiate their boys to manhood in a low key ceremony that was strictly attended by family members.

Friends and Relatives of Wasike who attended the ceremony

This year, the circumcision age group was from the ‘Bakikwameti’.The  ceremony follows the eight age-groups: Bakolongolo, Bakikwameti, Bakananachi, Bakinyikeu, Banyange, Bamaina, Bachuma and Basawa which last for 10 years apart from Bachuma which lasted for 14 years (from 1872-1886).

“This year i had prepared that i will face the knife but when Covid19 struck and elders announced that they were postponing the circumcision ceremony, i was heartbroken since i had to wait for another two years,”said Eugene.

Amidst the pandemic, Eugene W. Barasa, 13, the son to renowned businessman Bernard Barasa also faced the knife (kumubano). Barasa is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Shell Retail Petrol Stations in Western Region. Master Eugene is in class seven.

Businessman Bernard Barasa (left), his son Eugene W. Barasa and a relative. Master Eugene graduated to manhood

The rite of passage goes beyond initiation into manhood. The edge of the knife that cut his (Eugene) foreskin was like an oath of allegiance and the blood he shed made him a warrior and a defender of his community.

This week Eugene underwent the final rite of passage where he was made a man. He is no longer a boy but a man and a warrior. When he will attain 18 years of age, he will now have the right to marry and sit with elders where decisions that affect the community are being made.Eugene is not alone, his age mates have also graduated to adulthood.

Unlike in the past where bulls would be slaughtered and traditional brew (Busaa) taken to mark the day, this one was low key one due to Covid19.

It was held at his father’s homestead in Lugari Sub County in a move to reintegrate him (Eugene) back to the society. He had been in seclusion since his circumcision.

Eugene W. Barasa after being initiated to manhood

Master Eugene was happy that he had finally undergone all the steps required as per the traditions in order for one to be initiated to adulthood.

“This year i had prepared that i will face the knife but when Covid19 struck and elders announced that they were postponing the circumcision ceremony, i was heartbroken since i had to wait for another two years,”said Eugene.

Eugene said when the Health Ministry relaxed the stringent measures and allowed the ceremony to continue as planned, he got a sigh of relief,saying he approached his father and informed him that he was ready to face the knife.

 “We decided to have a low key ceremony of initiating my son into adulthood while observing the Covid19 protocols. Normally, a bull should be slaughtered and invite the elders and the community to celebrate the new warrior but this was not the case. The event was only attended by family members and a few elders, “said Mr. Barasa.

His father, Mr Barasa said that when Eugene approached him, he was happy that his son had gained the courage to undergo the rite of passage and immediately put in place measures to ensure he fulfills his wish.

Barasa said after Eugene was circumcised and recovered, he started planning on an ideal day he can have him initiated to adulthood while at the same time ensuring government’s measures in curbing the spread of Covid19 are observed.

 “We decided to have a low key ceremony of initiating my son into adulthood while observing the Covid19 protocols. Normally, a bull should be slaughtered and invite the elders and the community to celebrate the new warrior but this was not the case. The event was only attended by family members and a few elders, “said Mr. Barasa.

Eugene W. Barasa after being initiated to manhood

According to Barasa, the money he would have spent on food, buying a bull and traditional brew which is a requirement in the Bukusu traditions, he bought food stuffs for at least 150 families who are basically his neighbours.

“Instead of having many people congregate together when there is a pandemic, I thought it wise to bless them with food stuffs so that we can celebrate the day together. They are like a family to me,”said Barasa.

Ends

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here