You gotta fight, for your rite… to be initiated into adult male society

Since we arrived back in Nakhololo, there has been a noticeable lack of 8-12 year old boys around town. More than 50% of Mozambique’s population is under the age of 18, so there is no shortage of kids running around our house all day, but many of the pre-teen boys have been away participating in the process of male initiation rites. Kathryn’s host brother was one of these boys, which means we were lucky enough to be invited to the huge party that takes place at the end of their month preparing.

It was explained to us that these boys spend a month out in the bush without any contact from women. Although we asked pretty much everyone who brought up the subject about what actually goes on during the month these boys spend away from the village, we received nothing but the vaguest of answers. So after a week of asking around, and even after attending the final celebration, we basically still have no clue what they actually have been doing while out in the bush, but we definitely do have a much better idea of what Mozambican parties look like!

When we arrived to the party, we were immediately seated next to a family of women in matching capulanas who informed us they came to this party all the way from Nampula City just for the pork. Although we didn’t say so, we were kinda feeling the same way. Kathryn’s host dad is a butcher, and her mom is a great cook, so we were pretty excited to eat the goat and pork we had seen being prepared the day before.

Shortly after arriving, we were served a goat stew over rice, along with grilled pork and xima. We were pretty satisfied after one serving, even though we probably served ourselves less than ¼ of what everyone else there was eating. The normal Mozambican serving size can only be described as a mountain of rice.

After eating, we were led inside to see Menguito, Kathryn’s host brother, the whole reason for the party. We were supposed to sit and talk with him for a while to entertain him, as he was not allowed outside until the ceremony began. Unfortunately he doesn’t speak a lot of Portuguese, and we don’t speak a whole lot of Makua, so it was a short conversation and we sat in silence inside the sweltering house for what we determined was an appropriate amount of time before heading back outside to the coolness of the shade and breeze.

After everyone had eaten, it was time for the real festivities to begin. All the tables were cleared away to make room for a local dance group to begin singing and dancing.

Although most of the songs were in Makua, we did realize that one song the women were singing in Portuguese included the refrain,

“Life here is hard,
So I cry and eat mandioca.”

Which we thought was kind of funny because the women were singing this song with huge smiles on their faces, although I did agree that I want to cry when I eat mandioca. After a while, the women began to sing a song that generally talked about the generosity of Kathryn’s host pai for feeding everyone. At this point, a huge procession began, with everyone coming up the aisle and giving money to Kathryn’s host parents, Menguito, and a couple other older men who we didn’t know. We had heard that it was customary to bring presents, but we had no clue what was expected, and watched for a while to see what other people were giving. In the end, we gave 100 mets (about $1.50) to Kathryn’s host dad and about 20 mets (about 30 cents) and a container of bubbles to Menguito.

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After this process, the women resumed dancing and singing, this time joined by some of the party goers. Kathryn was pulled up to dance with a mãe, and I was lucky enough to share a dance with one of the town drunks! After this experience, and being at the party for around four hours, we decided it was time to head out while the dancers were taking a quick break. As we were leaving, we noticed that many of the mães were beginning to prepare dinner; the dancing and celebration continued late into the night.

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