As a young Zulu man who hails from a family
steeped in tradition, customs and a strong allegiance to the arts of our
fore-fathers; I’ve taken many a beating for my reluctance to lend a hand in the
dismemberment of fellow mammals.
I mean, sure, I love my meat; but to take
part in the dismantling of a breathing creature is all too overwhelming for an
animal lover like myself. One cannot help but sympathise with a woolly sheep,
staring at you with big brown eyes as it gets hauled off into a desolate corner
to get its throat slit. But hey, who am I to judge? Like any other
beer-drinking South African male, I love my spit braais – and Karoo lamb is a
delicacy that I savour with my extended family every festive season.
Meat is a prized possession amongst my
people, and Zulu men feast on it for hours. Yet the process of bringing down a
1ton ox is no easy feat. This takes skill, years of experience and the quick
action of a spear-bearing hand onto a sensitive nerve. This is the point when I
cringe, look the other way and pretend not to hear the mighty beast’s final
Ever since I was I kid, I would flee at the
sight of a chicken held down for decapitation, or a goat, over-powered by four
of my uncles. “Woza uzobamba Bonga, kumele ube indoda”, is what they would say.
That for me was difficult, because pre-slaughter time, I would become attached
to the new “pet”. For those three days that the herbivore was given the chance
to live (albeit tied up to a pole and left to eat dry patches of grass) I would
pet it, name it and give it fresh batches of grass every chance I got.
The slaughtering of animals is prominent
within the black culture. It’s a practice that each household experiences at
least ten times during its existence – be it a wedding, coming of age of a
maiden, or the welcoming of a newborn into the family, “Niggas” will bring down
This got me thinking and to be honest… worried. One day, I will
take the mantle of “head of the family”. I will be expected to be the
spear-bearer, slayer of oxen, tamer of sheep and skinner of goats. Aside from
“Head of the family”, these aren’t titles that I’d like to be associated with.
They represent everything I deem cruel and barbaric.
During times of desperation, hope comes in the most random of
places; in this case, it was my younger sister.
During a recent university lecture she attended, they had to dissect
a lab rat. Her skill with a scalpel and finesse with tongs showed me one thing:
I don’t need to be a master butcher when I have a future doctor in the family.
The belief is males are meant to handle this sort of thing, but I’m willing to
put my head and reputation on the chopping block by giving her the privilege of
being a mass murderer.
If she can stomach the stench of dead rat, surely she’s good enough
to skin a goat?
Is this a cop out?.. nah, I’m
a modern man.