The Wound: Xhosa initiation in a modern world


The release of John Trengove’s film The Wound has sparked controversy, as it centres on the secretive Xhosa rites of passage and the practice of traditional male circumcision. The highly contested South African film tells the story of a homosexual African man who returns to the rural Eastern Cape to be a mentor or a khaukatha to new Xhosa initiates. The film, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, brings to light the practices of ulwaluko and the concept of African masculinity.

The Xhosa ritual of circumcision is highly controversial due to the statistics detailing its medical risks. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) conducted an intervention study in the Libode district in the Eastern Cape during the period of 2009–2013. They found that 453 circumcision initiates died during the period of June 2006 to December 2013 and 214 initiates suffered penile amputations in the Eastern Cape region. The HSRC also stated that dehydration, sepsis, and gangrene play a leading role in the cause of deaths among initiates.

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Did you just assume my gender?


Gender is a 2017 buzz-word. It is a subject that is essential, but often misunderstood. In National Geographic’s series, The Gender Revolution, American activist, author, and comedian Sam Killermann, breaks gender down into three basic categories: gender identity, gender expression, and biological sex. Killerman defines gender identity as “how you see yourself”, gender expression as the “dif ferent ways we present gender through our actions, dress and demeanour”, and biological sex as the “physical characteristics that make up ou r body”. Mpho Motiang, counsellor at the Centre for Sexuality, Aids and Gender (CSA&G) at UP, echoed Killermann’s

 definition of gender when he said that he “identif[ies] gender as how you feel and how you express yourself within your everyday interaction within the world and what the world gets to receive of that.”

Many believe that gender equals biological sex, therefore, if a person has XY chromosomes then their gender is male. However, while a person may have XY chromosomes, they may still feel that they identify better as a female. Motiang explains that these conservative ideologies surrounding gender exist because gender is a social construct: “There’s so many ways to express it [gender], yet we become so used to a binary system where it is man on one side and woman on another side. It is a lot more complicated than that.” Motiang describes gender as “fluid” since it cannot be broken down into two simple categories of male and female.

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Motor Neuron Disease: the facts

The death of South African Rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen has shone a new light on the reality of living with motor neuron disease (MND).

MND is a name used for a a variety of diseases that cause a person’s nerve cells to degenerate and eventually die. These nerve cells control muscle functions which enable us to breathe, swallow and walk. Therefore, patients who suffer from MND often experience muscle weakness and eventually muscle wasting. According to Professor Peet Du Toit, a professor of Neuroscience and Physiology and Gerhart Kalmeier, a Master’s student in Physiology, “It is not yet clear what causes motor neurons to stop functioning properly. We know that about 5% of cases have a family history of related conditions, where faulty genes have been identified to contribute largely to the development of the disease.” Around 384 new cases of MND are reported every year.

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F**k Donald Trump: Hip-hop’s reflection of reality

Forty-fifth President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, is the latest in a string of topics that rappers are reacting to. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Los Angeles rappers YG and Nipsey Hussle released the single ‘F**k Donald Trump’, rated by HipHopDX as the 6th “most lit” track of 2016. The single failed to chart, but was viewed by over 16 million people on YouTube with the remix, which featured rappers Macklemore and G-Eazy, garnering a further 3 million views.

The lyrics set out the rappers’ reasons for disliking Trump, with YG rapping, “Don’t let Donald Trump win, that ni**a cancer. He too rich, he ain’t got the answers. He can’t make decisions for this country, he gon’ crash us”, and Nipsey Hussle criticising Trump’s wealthy background and lack of political experience: “Reagan sold coke, Obama sold hope, Donald Trump spent his trust fund money on the vote”. YG later offered to perform ‘F**k Donald Trump’ at the presidential inauguration for a fee of $4 million dollars, but was not selec ted to perform.

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UP Protests: a 2016 recap

2016 was a year that will be remembered for its student protests across South African campuses. Here is a brief recap of the protests experienced on UP campuses in 2016.

Workers’ Protest On 11 January 2016, UP workers began a protest against the university’s outsourcing practices, and called for higher wages. Workers from companies such as Servest, Global One and Fidelity were dispersed by riot police on 12 January 2016 and the university remained closed during the following week. UP Summer School modules and special exams were disrupted and began again on 25 January 2016. UP’ s annual Welcoming Day, scheduled to take place on 16 January, was cancelled due to safety concerns. On 20 January 2016, after more than a week of protest action, a preliminary agreement was reached which included a staggered approach to wage increases and insourcing, as well as allowing UP workers and their dependents to study at UP for free. The first phase of insourcing began on 1 April 2016.

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