Last Friday saw the opening of the much anticipated feature film, Inxeba (The Wound). While it is a isiXhosa language film, the hype around this movie, and the setting for the story, makes it a valid discussion for a platform like Ulwazi.
Inxeba has won countless awards, including Best SA Director and Best Actor at the Durban International Film Festival, and is currently nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, but sadly a number of our local cinemas have been unable to screen the movie due to threats of violence. Protestors argue that the movie reveals secrets of the male Xhosa initiation ritual, but the director claims that nothing that isn’t already in the public domain is shown during the movie. Elias Ribeiro, the film’s director, states that Ulwaluko, the Xhosa initiation ritual, is simply the setting for the story that explores the attitude towards homosexual relationships, to play itself out, but that its secrets and rituals are in no way the focal point of the film itself.
So the question is whether traditions should be protected to the point where they are not open to public debate and scrutiny? Initiation rituals in South Africa have come under the spotlight in recent years as a result of the number of young boys who are disfigured or lose their lives due to unscrupulous practitioners. Some might argue that films like Inxeba will help to raise awareness around this time honoured tradition, and help to preserve it and ensure that the environment initiates find themselves in are safer as a result. Others will be of the more conservative opinion that by introducing homosexuality into the context of ulwaluko, the ritual is being dishonoured.
Perhaps it’s necessary to take the time to understand the film properly before passing judgement, and as the director rightly points out, that would most likely require the public to watch it.
You decide. Inxeba is showing at cinemas around the country, is available for viewing on Netflix (USA only at the moment), and will soon be broadcast via M-Net’s Box Office service.