I Forgot!


It’s at the crack of dawn in Kwakwaza, a remote village in Africa.

Wild ululations are heard from the home of Mzee Sidibe. It is the sound of joy. Mzee’s wife has been heavy and almost due. When she went into labor the previous night, everyone in the village waited with baited breath.

Villagers know what this sound insinuates.

It tells them two things. One is that all is well; a baby has been safely delivered and two, it is a boy. It’d be a different sound if a girl had been born for example. The sound would be deeper and last for not more than ten heartbeats. It would be a single sound, extended, with no breaks in between. The sound made for the birth of a boy would be much shriller. If the boy was born to a chief, like Mzee, the horn-blower would blow it three times. If born to a normal villager, two horn blows would be made. There was a clear distinction.

In Kwakwaza they say that the god’s have honoured Mzee. That would mean that Mzee now has a son. The village will celebrate. Because of the stature of Mzee, a bull would have to be slaughtered. The village would make merry for days, singing praises to the new born. A man had been born.

The boy would grow.

A time would come when he would have to go through the transition from a boy to a man. In Kwakwaza village, they would organize circumcision for all boys aged 11. It would be a whole week’s festival. The boys would be woken up at midnight and escorted stark naked, to Kizimbe river. They would be made to apply mud on every part of their body except their eyes and be lined up in groups of 12. Young warriors would lead them; five would walk in front of the boys and another five behind them. There would be chants, war chants to be precise. The young warriors would also sing songs. They would sing praises to the boys who would survive the ordeal, and mock those who would falter. The time had come. There was no turning back.

At the river, they would find an old wrinkly man.

This man was the official circumciser, Kwakwaza’s cutter. He would wield an old rusty scalpel in his shaking hand. He would be shaking mostly because he’d be high on some cheap traditional liquor that he would have been imbibing all night. Kwakwaza’s cutter was a non-starter without his liquor. He had to be high, high as a kite for him to perform.

The war songs and chants would become even more frantic as the boys approached the cutter. The boys would be cold and scared as shit but they wouldn’t show it. If they showed any hint of fear they would lose their place in the podium of manliness. They had to hold it together and be men. Men didn’t fear.

Kwakwaza’s cutter would perform some ritual. It would involve dipping the scalpel in some sort of herbal concoction probably to sanitize it. Then he would proceed to walk around, stopping abruptly next to each boy, looking squarely into his eyes, in a bid to see whether he would detect any consternation. He would then unexpectedly deliver a thunderous slap across the boy’s face. The intention? To hear whether the boy would utter a word of displeasure or even wince in pain. Men were not expected to feel pain, no, how dare they?

He would then go ahead and cut the foreskins of the boys. There would be no anesthesia. Well, maybe there was, some mud would be applied around the boy’s private parts. That’s as numbing as it got. Through out the procedure, no boy was expected to cry or utter a sound. There were groans but muted, muffled ones that sounded more like acknowledgement of the pain rather than an expression of it.

A boy who had successfully met Kwakwaza’s cutter and survived him would now be ushered into a new space, he would enter the league of men.

The boy would grow, be taught and learn the ways of men. He would never enter the kitchen. No, men never went to the kitchen. A man would die of hunger before he ever found himself in the kitchen. He would go hunting in the morning. All day, he would chase wild game until he’d successfully shoot an arrow through one, kill it, skin it and bring the meat home. He would learn how to sit with the elders and listen to tales of how his forefathers conquered territories and fought great wars. How they entered the annals of the great men of Kwakwaza village. A man would be taught manly things.

He would build his own hut besides his father’s. His father would soon find him a wife. He would betroth her. He would marry and hastily sire children. He’d become a man, he had a family, he took care of them and ensured that they ate and slept and if the gods gave him a boy, he would teach that boy how to be a man, a honourable Kwakwaza man.

The man would grow old and die one day. He’d be buried a hero, even if all he did was sire children. He was a Kwakwaza man; it meant something to be one.

But that was then.

The roles were crystal clear then. A man knew what it meant to be a man. There was no confusion, maybe a bit of discontent but no confusion. You’d want discontent over confusion anytime. Discontent in itself is a sort of clarity. Men knew what was expected of them. It was basic and clear. Be born, be initiated into manhood, find a wife, sire endless generations of children, provide food, fight wars and probably be killed in one. See? Crystal clear.

Today, men have no idea what they ought to be. Firstly, men aren’t even taught what a man ought to be. The older generations and the congregations of women folk across the globe decry the scarcity of real men when no one is taking time to deliberately teach boys how to become men. Today’s boy has to grope in the dark, with zero help, to find what real manhood is. There are fewer older men to teach boys how to be men so the boys turn to each other, to social media and to other ill-conceived notions of what a real man ought to be.

So what exactly does society want from men?

It used to be that a man was proper and real if they were a provider, a leader, a father, and a protector. No one cared about how in touch with his emotions he was. A man didn’t have to talk to anyone in the house as long as they provided. Most of us didn’t even hear the voice of our father, and most of us didn’t think it abnormal anyway. In fact, the lesser a father spoke, the more fatherly he was, and fathers didn’t have much to say.

Today, you’ll bring the bacon home and still have to talk. Women want a man who can express himself, one who is in touch with his feminine side. You shouldn’t be too manly; if you are then you don’t get women, as though anyone does anyway. Then again, you shouldn’t be too in touch with that feminine side because now you’ll just be weird.

Does society want men to cry or not? I am confused.

If a man cries, he’s a sissy. But why would we even associate crying with cowardice? And why would God give men lacrimal glands if he didn’t want them to cry? Women will say that a man who doesn’t cry isn’t in touch with his emotions yet there are women who wouldn’t look twice at a man who sheds a tear. They’ll say he’s weak. But if crying makes a man weak what does it make a woman? A man should cry but not too much, they say. Or a man shouldn’t cry in public. But what is too much crying, who defines it and what’s a public enough place for a man to cry?

Today, a man has to be good, not just in bed, but also in the kitchen. She wants breakfast in bed in the morning after an amazing night. Women say that a man who can cook is romantic. Truth is, most men weren’t equipped with culinary skills. Most can’t boil an egg to save their lives. The best most can do is make tea, if they try making anything else, they’ll set the whole house ablaze. Kitambo, a romantic man was one who could feed a woman. Not so today. So go hustle bro, bring the bacon home and earn bonga points by learning how to make that bacon.

You are expected to sire offsprings, yes, but you should also know how to take care of them. I mean hold them, change their diapers if and when they poop, wash them and cuddle them to sleep. You are even expected to take the babies out and spend time with them at least once a month. It’s called a day out or something. They say that that is being a good father never mind that our own fathers never had a minute to spare for us.

But let’s be real for a minute. Shall we?

If you are always home with the kids and the wife, when do you get time to make the money to buy the food, pay the rent, find money for the best schools and take your family for holidays? Can a man do both? Can he be the man who finds ‘all the time’ to hang out with his family and still make money? And if I make the money and not find time for the family society will vilify me. But if I don’t make as much money will society take my kids to school for me? No! They will vilify me still and accuse me of producing and not providing. So where’s the balance anyway?

Is it possible for me to saddle, ride the horse and still sit in the carriage?

Anyway guys, all I am trying to say is that, Thursday last week was International Men’s Day and like most of us, I forgot. I forgot because it is easy to forget the contribution that a man, even one with a confused sense of roles, makes to the society. Truth is, there are many bad men. There are deadbeats who go around depositing sperms and have no inclination of taking care of the women they impregnate or the kids they sire. They don’t take care of their business. There are those who cause the world pain and heartache. There are lazy men. There are abusers. There are weak men. There are those who have a sense of inferiority around strong women. There are molesters and sexually perverted men. There are all kinds of men.

The other truth is that, there are good men. Men who don’t exactly know what’s expected of them by the society, but they are trying. They are trying to provide. Trying to be romantic. Trying to be kind. Trying to make money. Trying to take their kids to better schools. Trying to make sure that their families lack for nothing. In the midst of all the role confusion, there are those who are still bringing the bacon home and some of them, from time to time, cook it.

Some will saddle the horse. Some will ride the horse. Others will sit in the carriage with their woman and very few, if any, will do all of the above. Either way, they try.

Never mind that I forgot, appreciate the man in your life and Happy Belated International Men’s Day to all men out there!


In other news, Lillian, one of the most consistent readers of this blog, celebrates her 24th birthday today! Happy Birthday Lillian! Have the best day yet. Enjoy it; you only live once, and then forever!

  1. Happy belated international men’s day Mwendwa and all men out there..

    Thank’s so much for the birthday wish, I never saw it coming.I really appreciate.

    Before I forget thanks for always making my Thursday busy 😊

  2. Boy child!!!! Happy belated international men’s day. The days ahead are even tougher…..the narrative needs to change. Ok

  3. This is a really informative piece.
    Clearly, men ought to be celebrated so much more. They carry so much on their shoulders; and were they to drop the ball even for a few seconds, the world would feel a pinch.
    Happy belated men’s day Bishop’s son.

    1. It’s not that men hawajitambui, humans have evolved and things have changed and become more complex. It’s not like in the hunting and gathering times when there was little to do, and the best aspiration was becoming a warrior and a father, no education to pursue, careers to chase, possibly, a family to raise.

      Then it made sense for a man to be warrior like because of the prevailing social conditions. Consider that the woman was busy raising kids as that having over 10 children was the norm and made families valuable. Then there was the fatalism aspect….

      Simply put, the advancement in society into the current one demands change for both men and women. Holding on the past cultural system only causes more confusion and does not help us redefine ourselves in any manner.

      So, no, it’s not unfortunate that men do not know themselves anymore, but it is that we don’t recognize the difference in times and how they affect who we are and the need to make adjustments that suit our era.

  4. Must be hard being a man in this society and achieving that balance. Congrats to all men who are trying. Good luck to all who have no idea what to do, those who can’t navigate the murky waters.
    And, this is one awesome read.. Thanks n keep them coming.

  5. Wonderful piece once again. I think the challenge is on us, though we weren’t shown the how to be a man, it’s us now to show the young men in our boys how to be a man and shape up a better tomorrow. Thanks for this wonderful piece.

  6. Amazing intro story. The read is captivating. Loved how you connected with current men issues and international men’s day.

    Happy belated international men’s 😊

    Yet again, another highly relevant piece . Thank you for telling the untold stories 💪😁

  7. “The only thing that is constant is change” Heraclitus of Ephesus

    Though he forgot to mention God too.

    The world has changed, the social norms have changed, the roles of the sexes have changed… maybe it is time for the man to accept that and then turn to God to find his new roles in this changing world. I know plenty of great men out there who have found a balance and are doing a fantastic job and modelling greatness for the next generation of men. Happy belated international men’s day. As always, good stuff Mwendwa

  8. A wonderful piece Mwendwa!!!Happy belated Int’ mens day despite the confused modern man…Ride the horse or sit in the carriage….Mmmmh!!

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