Performing sexuality in Bukusu circumcision rituals
Doseline Kiguru (The British Institute in Eastern Africa)
Kimingichi Wabende (University of Nairobi)
Paper short abstract:
We explore how the Bukusu circumcision ritual influences sexuality and gender relations by examining performances associated with the ceremony. We look at the dance and the lyrical content of the music and chants to analyse the changing aspect of socialization, sexuality, and gender relations.
Paper long abstract:
Circumcision initiation rituals provide both a physical and symbolic space for transformation of the initiate from childhood to adulthood. The communal expectations of the initiate to twofold: to provide security to family and community, and on the other hand, they were also expected to join the league of those who would sire the new members of the community. As the protection role has diminished, more emphasis has been placed on the reproductive role. In this regard, the circumcision ceremonies and rituals have also evolved to pay more emphasis on the reproductive role and have become a space of enactment and representation of sexuality. This is achieved mainly through music and dance rich in different levels of sexual vocabulary in a platform that becomes temporary exempted from the society's strict moral standards regarding sex and sexuality, a subject that is traditionally considered taboo. In this ritual space, the circumcision ceremony becomes an arena for the young to be initiated into secrets of society through a performance of sexuality in a ritualized ceremony. This paper explores how the circumcision ritual among the Bukusu influences sexuality and gender relations by examining the dances, music and chants that are traditionally associated with this ceremony. It pays attention to the performance aspect of the dance and the lyrical content of the music and chants to analyse the changing aspect of socialization, sexuality, and gender relations in the community. As a transformative ritual, the paper seeks to reveal the agent of change within the ritual performance.
Ritual as performance space