Text by Aluncedo Cetywayo
Images: by Aluncedo Cetywayo and Charmain Carrol
Wednesday 29 May afternoon in Johannesburg, from Parktown to Park Station with heavy baggage filled with donations for BNM art centre founded by Charmain Carrol based in Ngqwarha, Mount Frere in Eastern Cape.
I am travelling to Mount Frere with Charmain Carrol by bus, we were tired so we spent most of the travelling hours sleeping in the bus until we reached Mount Frere at 5:45am. It is a very small town and it was freezing cold, we had to wait a for a while waiting for Charmain’s colleague to fetch us in town and take us to the village where Charmain’s home is at. The moment we got to the gate at Charmain’s home her dogs Nelly and Timony gave us the warmest welcome jumping on us.
The cold was just too much for me I quickly rushed to bed got warm and rested. At 10 am I was woken up with a hot cup of tea, loving the hospitality here. I had my tea and got out of bed and took a bath. Charmain then took me for a tour around the village.
That is when we started identifying spaces to take photographs for our collaborated project titled IN HER WOMB a project that I started, writing my thoughts in a form of poetry about the experiences of growing up without my biological mother by my side even though she is still alive.
We discussed it and we came to a conclusion of the collaboration, Charmain interprets my writing with photographs. We started with photographing in Johannesburg, and that got us both wanting more locations to photograph in, that is when the travelling to Eastern Cape surfaced.
Sharing the art BNM art centre runs a holiday programme where the children do all forms of art. I have offered to share my theatre\drama knowledge, while we work on the collaboration of IN HER WOMB project. BNM art centre works closely with the pupils of Kuyasa Primary School so I went there to visit and start with the drama lessons with the Grade 7 class. I first had to get to know the pupils so we just had a good hour of introductions which was very fun. We also discussed random topics that popped in during our conversations, like dating, sexuality and a whole lot of other topics or issues they wanted to talk about. The holiday programme has begun and I will be doing the drama lesson until the end of the holidays, at the end of the holidays we will be showcasing the work we have been doing. I also am planning to have a full script done by the end of this programme.
In the Eastern Cape during the June and December holidays is when the tradition of initiating boys over the age of 17 into manhood takes place. This tradition takes boys to the mountain to be taught responsibilities of manhood and they get circumcised. During that process there are celebrations that take place. Charmain and I got a chance to attend and document the first ceremony called umgubho, which is a celebration of the boys have been given permission by their family to go to the mountain. A bull is slaughtered and is only for men, and another one called iDuna is slaughtered which women are allowed to eat from and there is a lot of traditional beer. Men and women do the traditional dance all night and drink the traditional beer called Umqombhothi.
The boys going to the mountain are hidden when getting into the kraal where the cows get slaughtered, they are not supposed to be seen by women and those who have never been to the initiation school or mountain. Watching and documenting this ceremony was very interesting and informative. I watched the younger boys doing the dances mimicking the dances the older men. I wondered what is going on in their heads, maybe waiting for their turns to go to the mountain. I ate a lot of meat in the 2 days that we have been documenting this process. I am sure that while here there will be a lot to learn and document.
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