The Wound

milkboys Films, Films & Cinema, News 12 Comments

Protests erupted over the The Wound, a queer film that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and its director John Trengove for appropriating African culture and publicising a secret tribal circumcision ritual depicted the film.

The traditional Xhola circumcision ritual  that is a  major topic in the film marks a boy’s passage into manhood. Considering that the ritual has resulted in over 800 deaths, it makes sense why young Kwanda, the youthful initiate in the film, wouldn’t want to go through it. His resistance forces his mentor Xolani to reconsider the traditions and the tribal notions of manhood altogether.

The actual ritual has gotten public exposure before. Former South African president and civil rights leader Nelson Mandela wrote about the experience in his autobiography.

The ritual involves a traditional surgeon (called an ingcibi) who severs the initiate’s foreskin using a spear, which is then tied to the initiate’s blanket. The penile wound is covered with a healing plant and for the next eight days, the initiate is confined to a hut (called a bhoma) and forbidden from eating certain foods. After eight days, an ukosiswa rite removes the food restrictions and marks the start of the second phase, which lasts two to three more weeks. The initiates’ seclusion ends when they race to the river to bathe themselves. Finally, the initiates’ hut and possessions are burnt, each initiate gets a new blanket and is called an amakwala (new man) henceforth.

Quartz Africa reports that protestors, like South African journalist Lwando Xaso and the current Xhosa king, say Trengrove (a white South African) appropriated Xhosa culture, particularly “jealously guarded secrets of a tradition that has managed to endure oppression and modernization.”

Xaso said, “It is not okay to subjectively delve into traditions and practices you are not a part of under the guise of sparking debate and engagement. It is not your place because you are not speaking as a member of that society.”

Two South African cinemas stopped showing The Wound over security threats, but it remains available elsewhere internationally.

Comments 12

    1. Huh? I’ve read the article and couldn’t find where “American communists/liberals” are involved in the protests associated with the film, whereas South Africa was… numerous times. Weird that you tried to make that connection. Help me understand.

  1. This looks very intriguing. I’d love to see this. There’s very few very intense gay movies around with black characters. All too often they veer into generally unbelievable characters of crime or ignorant “hip-hop coolness.”

    I think we’re finally seeing some very good movies with gay characters who aren’t just the usual camp/fem/hustler types and represent real teens with real emotions, like in the recent Call Me By Your Name and maybe this one as well.

  2. Oh, boo hoo. Other cultures are appropriated all the time. It’s called learning and growing. If African culture wasn’t appropriated, we wouldn’t have rock and roll music. However, this is one bit of African culture they can keep. OUCH.

  3. Culture?
    Nearly always when people start shouting in defence of ‘their culture’ what they’re trying to achieve is the continuation some awful quasi religious hocus pocus crap. Too often involving the subjugation of young people.

    When something is bad and makes you shudder. Then it’s bad. Never ever cultured.

    Priests, Imams, witch doctors, shamans ….. the whole lot are of the same ilk.

    Interesting how societies do lend credibility to such people though. But then that’s something to do with organisation and political control structure.

    1. “Nearly always when people start shouting in defence of ‘their culture’ what they’re trying to achieve is the continuation some awful quasi religious hocus pocus crap.”

      And more to the point, they feel [know] they’re losing their “religious”* control in that society. When they lose their control, then they lose their wealth and power as well.

      * “religious” = Socio-Political Ideologies [SPIs]

  4. As a South African, this is ridiculous. The only people that are getting upset by this are the Xhosa men who refuse to believe that there are gay men within their culture. No other language group(there are 10 others in South Africa) have had anything to say about this. It’s bullshit.

  5. Making a film is not appropriation, if you even believe appropriation is a thing, which I don’t.
    Appropriation is the stealing of something from another culture to make money, like Navajo blankets coming from China.

    1. “stealing of something from another culture to make money, like Navajo blankets coming from China.”

      Such as, … “Making America Great Again” caps from China? And, U.S. “presidential” ties from China? I wonder if Trumpists would consider those “appropriation”?

  6. Any film which exposes the horrors of circumcision – male or female – is automatically a good film in my book. May the light of day shine (burn!) on all primitive cultural violence and deformation.

    Next stop -those idiots who bind feet with bandages and heads with boards, and who stick plates in their lips and rings around the necks. Sorry, I don’t want to hear any objections or any other side of it. Like it or not, we’re plenty beautiful just as we were created. Even Penboy!

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