Initiation Rites

Initiation Rites

Initiation Rites’s title gives the focus of this painting. While in South Africa I read about the initiation rites that are common for young Xhosa boys to prove their manhood. Apart from circumcision, the initiates also endure a two week period of seclusion as they enter adulthood. In the Bapedi tribe of South Africa initiation is considered necessary for the individual to be regarded as a full member of the tribe. Some initiations can take about 3-4 months to complete. One of the first tasks to complete is that of living in the chief’s kraal and tending his cattle, goats and fields. During this time, they have their own secret language and are given lessons on behavior, and their traditions are taught to them through stories.

The second phase of initiation involves boys of a certain age group living together in the bush. Here they endure extreme discomfort and hardship to prepare them for adulthood. Among the Sotho, Venda, Ndebele, and Xhosa speaking tribes, the young men are taken into the mountains where they have to build their own shelters and learn how to hunt and fend for themselves. In this scene, the two young initiates approach a young kudu, their insecurities and hesitation obvious. The text below describes their apprehensions and their journey from boys to men. The painting was created with acrylic paint on printmaking and rice paper. SIZE 28” x 34”

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