African rituals are conducted in different circumstances, and to mark different events. Over time, some of these rituals have been considered dangerous because of the harm- physical and mental- it inflicts on the participants during the process and throughout their lives.
Practices such as Female genital mutilation, virginity testing and wife inheritance are just some of the dangerous and harmful customs still undertaken today.
Focus on such harmful practices has made it seem like Africa does not have rituals that promote positive living.
Scroll through to learn about the positive rituals practised across the continent today.
This is the kingship ritual in eSwatini, and is known as one of the biggest festivals in the country. Happening over a period of a month, Incwala comprises a few activities that mark the age-old tradition that is centred on the monarch.Without a king, there would be no Incwala.
The event is conducted by the national priests called Bemanti (people of the water), or Belwandle (people of the sea) as it is their duty to fetch water from the sea to strengthen the king. Other participants include the King’s blood-brothers.
Some members of the Chief Clans in the country are however not allowed at the festival because it is considered that they may be too powerful to overshadow the king. It is also a way to show that they have accepted the supremacy of the Dlamini clan.
In the custom, the first activity is the Bemanti, which involves the elders setting out with sacred vessels to the sea. It is followed by the Little Incwala, where the Bemanti meets with the king at the royal capital to drink special beer and in dance and sing sacred hymns called imigubho.
The next activity is the Lusekwane, named after a special acacia tree found in eSwatini. It involves ‘pure’ young men fetching the tree and then participating in bull-fighting to mark the beginning of the main Incwala event.
In this main event, the king appears in all his splendour and involves in a number of activities including his seclusion and purification, and eventual festivities to mark the new year.
The Baka community in Cameroon and Gabon have a ritual known as the Luma. This ritual marks the end of a successful hunt. For this community living in the Central African forest, hunting and gathering are their main economic activity and thus a successful hunt was celebrated.
The Luma ritual involves quite a lot of singing and dancing as a way to thank the spirit, Jengi, an intercessor between the people and their supreme being, Komba.
The Baka believes that the forest spirit only shows itself when the community is in harmony and thus they hold the Luma to invoke its presence.
This is a naming ritual practised by the Batooro, Banyoro, Batuku, Batagwenda and Banyabindi in Uganda, where children are given a pet name.
The names are selected from a set of twelve names shared across the communities. The giving of empaako not only shows love and endearment but as a sign of respect.
It is also for salutation and used by children to refer to their parents and elders. It can also be used in diffusing tension and reconciliation in conflict.
During the naming ceremony, the child is received by the paternal aunts and examined. Any similarity with existing relatives will influence the choice of empaako.
Once it is decided, the clan head declares the name and a ceremony involving sharing meal of millet and smoked beef and presentation of gifts follows. A tree in honour of the child is also planted.
The Rain Ritual
The Kalanga tribe of Zimbabwe and Botswana have a traditional dance specifically conducted for rainmaking. The ritual usually conducted in August comes with two dances: the hoso and the hosana, which feature heavy use of drums.
To dance the hoso, you have to be male. The dancers have a specific kilt for the dance that can have any other colour apart from red, as red is considered the colour of blood and death- an antithesis for the rainmaking ritual.
They also wear headdresses made of ostrich feathers and hold in their hand a flywhisk and hand rattle. They then dance at an arena surrounded by supplicants, who sing, dance and ululate to encourage the dancers.
The Ikahi ritual
In the Makua tribe of Mozambique, pregnancy is considered sacred and a pregnant couple needs to attend a vital ritual called the Ikahi. This is a ritual conducted to teach the expectant couple how to protect the pregnancy and the ethics to follow until the baby is born.
Only women and the pregnant woman’s husband are allowed in the Ikahi ritual. The couple gets ‘briefings’ on how to conduct themselves throughout the pregnancy and what to expect during delivery.
While briefings also come with a number of restrictions including that the couple should not have an affair, that the woman should not attend funerals and that the husband should not dig graves in the duration of the pregnancy.
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