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How Initiates were integrited into our community using the rite of passage!


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17/12/2007: Mozambique


hspace=5It was indeed a unique profession day as you can read from the photo background. Our elder Brother Angel Mansoa is behind the veiled hosts of the day. Yes, in our traditional rite of passage, the anamwali (initiates) were to be covered and be brought before the entire village community. The eldest Namkungwi with wider experience would present them to the eager waiting villagers. Before unveiling them he had to explain to the assembly that he had done everything possible in terms of revealing on what it takes to be an adult in that ethnic community. Of course, not just an adult but a responsible and reliable adult. Each significant point that he mentioned, the assembly had to respond either through wordless humming, or neck nodding while women had to ululate.

Then came the moment of unveiling and people had to say jointly that they needed them unveiled. The unveiling part of the ritual was accompanied by applauding. The elders who accompanied the initiates could receive gifts too for the job well done. Then came the turn of all those who had brought a gift of some kind. They were not to mince words. They would give a gift but also encourage you to keep improving on your strengths that the giver had known and also to satire the weakness which could reduce the credit enshrined in an adult man. Gifts had to be continuous reminders of you as you enter the process of continued growth.
When an initiate misbehaved, the accompanier was to bear the blame. If it was a lady she would be sent back to the Namkungwi or phungu for the job poorly done or to her parents.
To show that you were an adult, you were not to socialize with those who have not been initiated. They were still half members of the clan. If therewas anything, you were to advice them how to behave well.

To help a culprit, he had to be brought in the ‘ Kanyumba komata’ a secluded mud hut if it was a confidential matter to told on how he could have behaved as an adult. Anything that brought shame to the family could be said using idioms, stories, myths or just directly. You were not to answer back when a weakness was being pointed out. You were just to listen and try to put into practice what you were told. Women in a matrilineal society had to feed the man who was known on how articulate words with concrete examples he could have got from lived experience. Some initiates who were outstanding in their life, the eldest women could recommend them to be appointed chiefs of the clan even when they were still young.

I see in this that the community had a very big role to help its members to be exemplary wherever they would be. That is why they used to say, ‘ Imvi ndi godi wa mnzeru.’ Menaing grey hair the source of wisdom. Yes, today we might say not necessary because we have seen some young men being exemplary to the adults. It is all about internalization of values and interdependence is not an exception. We can learn from one another. The chewa say, ‘ Kamtengo kamwana ndiko aphera njoka’ meaning the stick of the child can help in killing a snake. Another proverb related to that is, ‘ Mchepera ndi wa kalulu koma mtima ndi wa njobvu’, meaning, the rabbit or hare is small but has the heart of an elephant. If religious life is a new culture, a counter . culture, then experts have to be chosen to initiate candidates into that culture. The initiates will have to live what they proclaim if they will have to be effective and win the esteem of the people. If we live according to our stipulated norms of our identity, many will feel attracted to join us. We will not need recruiters as our very life will be recruiting. Wishing the newly professed a successful living of our common brotherhood. Remember we grow through negative feedback. Let us be assertive in chiseling one another along the way. Cheers!

Simeon Banda, fms.

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