2018 Bagishu Imbalu circumcision ceremony

This year 2018 still the circumcision ceremony was highly welcomed by the Bamasaba after the blowing of horns to announce the new season. Today August 11, the Imbalu circumcision ceremony is being held under heavy security deployment being held at Mutoto cultural grounds where the first Mumasaba is believed to have been circumcised. This year, more than 1,000 surgeons have undergone HIV/Aids and Hepatitis B tests ahead of the celebrations in order to safe guard those to be circumcised.

The president of Uganda HE President Yoweri Museveni and the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta are expected to witness this cultural celebration. This is because the two countries have similar cultures between the Bagishu and the Kalenjin in western Kenya.

The ceremony will host many people so security is necessary. The participants in the ceremony including those who will be circumcised plus friends and relatives will come from areas like Mbale, Bududa, Manafwa, Bulambuli, Sironko and Namisindwa, while the Luhya and Bukusu will come from western Kenya. All these groups live in the foot hills of Mount Elgon.

 Imbalu circumcision ceremony

Teenage boys ready for the Imbalu circumcision ceremony

It happens every even year and comes with a festive atmosphere of Kadodi dance, music and feasting. All men who belong to this tribe have to undergo this process to prove that they are mature and can handle a family. The ceremony is open to tourists and one of the cultural experiences ever memorable on a Uganda safari since the tourists spend hours with the natives as they go through the whole ceremony.

The origin and legends of the Imbalu circumcision Ceremony

Imbalu has very many beliefs attached to it, Myth has it that the removal of the foreskin initially started as a punishment given to one of the men who always snatched other men’s wives. Later after however, when the man recovered he was more admirable to women than the other men and therefore all men undertook circumcision to stay admirable by their women.

Another story states that, the custom started with a Gishu ancestor who wanted to marry a Kalenjin girl from the Barwa clan in Kenya who was asked to make a covenant of circumcision with the clan including his ancestors. For the love he had for the girl he accepted the circumcision. The Kalenjin people have a great culture that on a Kenya safari meeting them will be so rewarding.

It is believed that when the horns are blown for a new circumcision season, the young boys are inspired to announce their intentions to be circumcised and the surgeons get possessed by the imbalu spirit and start trembling involuntarily. When the boy announces his intentions of getting circumcised, he is advised by the elder men about the challenges of the “knife” such that he doesn’t show fear. Showing fear means he will be shunned by women and other men.

For years, the tradition has grown stronger that older men who are not circumcised are forced to get circumcised therefore many teenage boys decide to get circumcised before the age of 15 to avoid being dragged at an older age. The culture is taken so seriously by the Gishu in that if one dies before circumcision, the body is subjected to circumcision before burial.

After the circumcision process, the ceremony is followed by ululation and giving of gifts to the bravely circumcised.

Having a safari to Uganda alone is its own experience but sharing an experience with the Gishu Imbalu ceremony is a whole different experience.

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