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The Xhosa boys are also circumcised during this time, and most years these schools make headlines because dozens of the boys die during the process. It is customary for the patriarch in a family to send a boy off, but Nkqinqa’s father has not been a part of his life for several years, and three of his uncles are dead.
So a neighbor named Patrick Dakwa has agreed to take responsibility for him.
In the Xhosa culture, the transition into manhood is marked by a month of instruction from elders, who teach the teens how to be a father, a husband.
He brings Nkqinqa to Holy Cross hospital, about an hour away by car, on a Saturday evening at about six p.m.
The next morning, Nkqinqa wakes up confused about where he is or how he got into this white and blue gown.
Dakwa is a community volunteer who spends a lot of time trying to make circumcisions safer, running seminars near the Eastern Cape town of Flagstaff, teaching traditional surgeons how to safely dress wounds.
However, since previous initiates are sworn to secrecy about the ritual’s details, as he lies in a hut with the other boys, rabid speculation is Nkqinqa’s only close companion.
Around us, white lights twinkled from the branches of thick heritage oaks.