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When Kisii male circumcision could be done with a sharp piece of iron blade

Hillary Gisore
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Boys in the mood for initiation rites. Much has changed in the Kisii circumcision.[Source/]

In the 1970s, recalls elder James Angwenyi of Jogoo estate in an exclusive interview, only boys fully grown to become men could go through the initiatory rite.

Sissies, boys who cringed from facing the knife, were scorned and name called abaisia until the time they came forward to face the sharp piece of iron.

"They could be sent away to their mothers from the grazing fields. It was suicidal for them to set foot in the men's herding huts (ebisarate)," said Mr. Angwenyi.

Before the circumcision day, boys could be inspected if they had developed necessary manly traits.

It was such serious that a boy could intentionally be injected with scary stories when darkness engulfed the night and then ordered to go fetch water. This was to test his courage and to check for any betraying cowardice.

"A boy could be tested in many ways to gauge his suitability for the rite. Some who had it fierce could be ordered to go hunt for rabbit meat at night. All this was to test whether they had the courage to battle the community's enemy," Angwenyi recalls.

With the modern circumcision, a gynaecologist is called over to a boy's hut (esaiga) where the business of the day ends or in the hospital.

Three or four decades ago, boys readying for the rite could trek for several kilometres to meet a gynaecologist, he tells.

It's where they could swim in a river to numb their skin before sharp iron could dig into their flesh. 

There were no injections to prevent blood loss but only herbs that were administered to the wounded area, explains Mr. Angwenyi.

Then, ululations and drum beating could start as the newly initiated men were lead home, he further recalls.

At the man's hut, fully grown cocks could be roasted or cooked and shared among the accompanying men.Those uncircumcised could not taste even the soup until they had also experienced the writhing pain of the knife, according to the elder.

Such was the weight of the initiation that a man could nurse serious injuries if he verbally abused another man who had the initiation rite before him.

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