The unkindest cut comes not from Inxeba, but from you
Who am I to write about this? Let me tell you ...
I’m a white woman who is writing an opinion piece about a South African film which has come under an unprecedented assault because it supposedly breaks with Xhosa tradition and “reveals” sacred information about ukwaluka – the traditional Xhosa initiation ceremony.
Many of my male Xhosa colleagues and friends won’t read this. Or if they do, they’ll stop as soon as they see the word ukwaluka. Because, how dare I, a non-Xhosa, white girl, speak about this sacrosanct ritual? Who am I to even consider myself worthy of having such conversations?
Not only am I not “worthy” of speaking about the homophobia that has reared its head as a result of this love story, I certainly shouldn’t be speaking about ukwaluka. Even if the secrecy around it was broken when young boys and men lost their lives during the initiation ceremony.
I cannot pretend to understand. I am, after all, a woman. A white woman. But what I do know is that as a South African I am proud. I am proud of the exceptional talent in the form of Niza Jay Ncyoni who plays Kwanda and Nakhane Touré who plays Xolani. I am proud that these two actors have remained steadfast in their belief to tell their truth, despite the threats.
I saw first hand the fear that they experience. My entertainment journalists and I hosted a pre-screening with industry colleagues and celebrities and the glorious Niza was there. Heels. Silky top. He looked damn good. Elias Ribeiro, one of the producers, pulled me aside to say that Niza felt unsafe as an unknown man was lingering around the movie house taking video footage. As a precaution we called in extra security and had to be on high alert in anticipation of anything going awry.
That’s just a snapshot of what they’ve gone though. Some members of the film have now been put into a safe house as threats against them continue to devour their right to safety.
Their lives have changed.
Not only because of the 19 awards they’ve received, the global critical acclaim, the conversations they’ve opened up, they threats they’ve received, but because they’ve given many men a voice.
I look on in awe as my fellow South Africans are deeply connected to a topic that involves their culture. What a privilege. What an honour to be part of a culture that is so passionate about its history that people are taking to their social media accounts to vent, are phoning their friends to speak about this and have debates in the work place. Halala!I’ve never really had a licence to be boastful of my culture. I’m a white, English-speaking South African who has roots that spread across Madeira, Russia and the UK. Allegedly. Oh, and apparently there were pirates along the way.
I was raised a proud South African. I’m a cultural nomad whose traditions consist of taking a Checkers chicken to anyone who will have me for Sunday lunch.Instead of going through umemulo or having an umembeso when I got married, my girlfriends threw me a bachelorette. Sure it was special. But when my Zulu friends talk about feeling the actual moment they were considered a woman or knowing that you and your husband’s family were now considered one unit, me, I just don’t get it.Of course, it’s tempting for my envy in our rich cultural history to be overridden by the lack of tolerance, compassion and understanding. The film speaks to real life: the homophobia that occurs on a daily basis. The farcical veil of acceptance and the violence that is so easy to rally.
But we can’t let the noise get in our way of celebrating this stellar cast. We can’t allow ourselves to be steered away from supporting local and allowing those who have resorted to violence to shut down a project that has been years in the making. We have to make sure #InxebaWillRise. We owe it to them. And ourselves.