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Boys to men: Kalenjins living in Australia stick to their tradition

By Edward Kosut | Jan 21st 2022 | 3 min read


The initiates ahead of the traditional circumcision ceremony in Perth, Australia. [Courtesy)

Miles away from home, a section of Kalenjin community members living in Australia on Wednesday performed a traditional rite of passage for boys as friends and relatives followed on the event online.

The boys aged between 13 and 15 years were taken through a rigorous ceremony that was streamed live on Facebook.

Friends and relatives across Nandi, Kericho, Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet witnessed the ceremony via a video link.

Previously, families would travel back home with their boys to be taken through the traditional rite of passage.

The Myoot Council of Elders chair Benjamin Kitur said most members of the Kalenjin community living abroad follow their traditional circumcision ceremonies to the letter. 

Mr Kitur, who doubles as the Nandi Kaburwa chair, cautioned the young people against exposing the secret cultural ideals through social media and only encouraged limited coverage of the circumcision events.

Mike Rono, who organised the ceremony in Perth, Australia told The Standard they opted for the hybrid circumcision ceremony after the country was put in a lock-down due to Covid-19.

“The schools were closed, so we mobilised the parents who wanted their children circumcised according to basic Kalenjin traditions and set a date with their relatives in Kenya,” he stated.

The eventful process known locally as Cheptilet was conducted eight hours non-stop and was attended by over 200 people.

Cultural songs dominated the event across the Bullsbrook suburbs as the boys were taken through the boys through traditional circumcision rites.

The boys were dressed up in animal skin throughout the event. 

In place of the sacred soils known as Ng’enda, white colour soils naturally available in Perth city were used to paint the faces, hands, and legs of the initiates.

“We couldn’t find the exact shrubs and trees used in the circumcision ceremony back at home, but we symbolically used other plants,” said Rono, noting that one member of the Kalenjin community offered them a place to perform the rituals.

The ‘holy’ place known as Korosio was installed, and it brought together over 200 people. 

Rono, who hails from Saniak village in Nandi, affirmed there was no cultural aspect that was skipped during the ceremony.

Isaac Birir and Linus Kiplimo were among the parents whose children took part in the traditional rite of passage.  Birir, an international athlete migrated to Australia in 2013.

“We realised we have such a beautiful culture when we reached Australia and that is one thing we would like to pass on to our children,” said Kiplimo.

Amb Amos Kiprop, the circumcision programme coordinator, stated that subtribes under the Kalenjin community share aspects of the traditional ceremony, and that allowed them to participate in one ceremony.

However, Kiprop said they lacked the right artifacts which are mandatory in such ceremonies adding that they plan to request the government to allow them to import some of the materials to Australia. 

He also said that Kitwek Association, a caucus bringing over 5,000 members of Kalenjin community in Australia together plans to be holding more of such ceremonies in the future.

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