Seeing as we were visiting a South African version of London today (East London), it felt appropriate that we were greeted by grey skies, and that the weather was cold and damp.
Which didn’t exactly make for ideal conditions to be visiting an open-air cultural village, whose chilly windswept setting made it seem totally different to the Africa of our imaginations. However, the enthusiasm of the greeting we got from the energetic young dancers was just enough to warm our cockles.
Obviously, the experience of visiting a “cultural village” is a long way from the experience of visiting a real Xhosa village where the kids probably dance to hip hop rather than traditional music, and where the iPhone and Instagram probably have more attraction that the old customs and rituals that we learnt about today. However, it was good to learn a bit more about these traditional ways of life before they disappear.
The men and women were separated, as the women were told about marriage rituals, while us men shuffled uncomfortably in our seats while we were regaled with the excruciating details of the circumcision ceremony that the young Xhosa men are subjected to as they come of age. Curiously enough, we were being told about all this by one of only three white men to have gone through this torture – he had volunteered for this potentially dangerous ritual because he had become fascinated by Xhosa culture. Thank God I only found it interesting rather than fascinating!
At the end, we were treated to some more singing and dancing – again, there seemed to be a genuine enthusiasm to it all, rather than the jaded “going through the motions” feel that you can often get at other cultural villages.