Taking the cut


This month is getting very tumultuous as days go by. I have been reflecting deeply. Suppose I had not gone to school? I would probably be celebrating 10 years of marriage and 10 years since I met Alfayo. I would be having 10 children in the order of Sitawa, Khasoa, Khandesi, Nasike and an army of boys including Pepela, Wefwafwa, Kundu and Okumu with big eyes, all seeing eyes. I would be having Wekhanya with a funny forehead that reminds me of the moon. Finally my last born, named after my warrior grandfather would be called Kutalang’i the roaring lion. But damn! School happened. It is now August and instead of doing what we do best in August in an even year, I am stuck in the city, swallowed by modern day technologies.

As we grew up, we zealously waited for August, the way I wait for terrific Tuesdays, that fall in the first week of payday. From January, we kept crossing days in the calendar and getting excited with every ticking second. We would look around and speculate about which boy was going to take the cut below. The young boys were coerced or expected to volunteer quickly before down there looks like the Malava forest terrain. For some reason best left at that, we knew who still had the foreskin and who was clean. It is like it was imprinted near the fly “with hey am still here”.

Those boys, who had successfully been cut and endured the pain, would suddenly lose touch with the girls, discover they are men and start behaving weirdly, shamelessly saying your breasts are big or your buttocks are big. As a girl, you would be severely damaged psychologically and cry painfully. It was always amusing when a girl was told her buttocks are big. When you had a small argument with anyone, the last straw would always be, “kumbaff hii. Hata uko na matako kubwa”. Yet in those sides of the country where the posho mill is everything, girls always have big assets. Always. And the legs are always those ones you hear about. So typically, these stupid, suddenly macho boys, who had been cut, always abused us and stopped playing with us. These days, the rear being big is worshipped. Woe unto those who abused us back in the day.

August was characteristically marked with whistles, bells, songs and dancers. It started with a whistle from a distance. Then the whistle drew nearer as the jingling bells (chinyimba) grew louder. We would by then be doing press ups, doing squats and getting necessary attires like a sweater to tie around your waist. When the whistle reached your homestead, you would yell your lungs out, jump like some Moran and join the group of dancers and the boy who was preparing to be circumcised (a musinde). The crowd would yell and invoke spirits. The girls (especially teens) would be at the back shaking their big kamatakho like nobody’s business. They would jump as their kamaturus jumped too in unison. The boys in the group would exclaim in awe as the breasts and buttocks shook rhythmically. By now, soul mates were identifying each other. The boys were in shorts and vests or light shirts, or better still, shirtless. Bigger girls would see the hairy legs, the toned arms and firm luhya chests and admire.

The songs were out of this world. The soloist would suddenly start praising one of the girls, describing her anatomy and inciting the crowd. He would then shift and start condemning those girls who give out their things easily. Then he would ridicule the wambumulis who steal people’s women. We would move from village to village, singing, dancing (khuminya) and by the time you zap into reality, you are a million miles away from home. By the time you arrived home, you would be beaten thoroughly almost being killed and denied supper or even risk sleeping in a cowshed. Things like children’s rights were jokes we had never heard before.

The next day you heard a musinde calling with his whistle and bells, this force still pulled you and you would join in the frenzy yet again, but this time, you reach Kongoli market, an hour away from home and return with another musinde headed to Sudi village. We would even abandon maize in the posho mill or buckets in wells to join the musinde. I think these people have spirits that capture your soul, arrest your mind and make you their prisoner.

On the eve of circumcision day, we would dance all night if your parents allowed, or kama mbaya mbaya just sneaked from home at night. We would dance in the banana plantations and boys would run around occasionally fondling easy girls and depending with his prowess, lure one into the nearby maize plantation or sugarcane. That is probably how I would have met Alfayo 10 years ago.

The D-day would be the circumcision day. There is a specific song they use when escorting a musinde to meet the surgeon. The poor boy would be taken to the river at the crack of dawn, naked and soiled with fresh wet, kewa soil. The August chill would cut throw our bodies painfully, leaving us numb. The boy would emerge from the river as if he had just risen from dead. Horrifying.  Stark naked like Adam in Eden, his little warty ass too cold and his penis receded, shrank and dead. Sometimes the girls would be chased away. Am still wondering how I used to wake up so early to witness these things. Was it a spell? In the river many things happen but notably, a lump on mud would be put on the fontanel (utosi) and a grass planted on his head. What was that for anyway?

This time as he marched from the river up to his home where he would be made a man, there was no vigorous dancing but stern faces. This was not a moment to look at buttocks or strong legs and chests, but a matter of life and death. The crowd would be chanting and encouraging him. Most of the time, we would follow the soiled musinde looking like a ghost, because he was our classmate, neighbor, relative or happened to know him by chance.

The surgeon would be in a trance and as soon as the boy stood facing the sun, hands akimbo, he would sneakily reach the terrified organ, pull the foreskin and in a micro-second, chop it off.

Now am stuck here in the city having this void and longing. These songs, whistles, horns playing in my mind are calling me. The ancestral spirits are reminding me day and night to go and minya.

This entry was posted in People.


  1. Stockie says:

    Hahahaaa i tried it once following them and wen i came back home u enter the door ukipitishwa na kofi…i wonder where mummy was wen doing all this

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