International Event: Bagaisu Men Don’t Cry

For my first international event, I went to a lecture entitled “Bagaisu Men Don’t Cry” with Dr. Pamela Khanakwa. For the majority of the lecture, Dr. Khanakwa talked the Imbalu ceremony, which is a public right of passage in Bagisu tradition. Throughout the past few hundred years, the role of the Imbalu ceremony has changed in the Bagisu culture, thus indicating a shift in the greater understanding of masculinity. Ever since the origin of this tradition, it has been greatly celebrated. Anywhere between the ages of 16 and 26, a boy could choose to go through the ceremony. This process happens publicly and is generally a large celebration. Within the past one hundred years, however, Bagisu elites have challenged the cultural norms. They argued that the ritual was “irrelevant to the needs that they had established” and that the tradition aimed to “tribalize people deviating from the minority culture groups within Uganda.” Bagisu society met these concerns with several solutions. The first solution was to introduce the practice of medicated surgery that would occur in private. Many argued that allowing men to have anesthesia during the procedure would defeat the purpose of the ceremony. Another solution was to forbid women and children from watching the public surgery. These solutions were met with opposition.

This was a topic that I had no previous knowledge on. I was not even sure exactly what the topic would be when I arrived at the lecture. I was pleasantly surprised and actually gained a lot of new knowledge. Throughout my time in grade school, lots of what I learned about Africa was from a very Eurocentric perspective. This lecture made me realize that I have never had the opportunity to learn about tribal customs or norms. Everything that I know about Africa is about one of the following topics: colonialism, decolonialism, The Scramble for Africa, or the slave trade. This is very unfortunate. I would like to expand my knowledge about Africa after this lecture. It was interesting to have the opportunity to hear someone from Uganda speak about the issues that face her community.

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