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Initiate: A big pot of porridge was being made to… | re/touch: an encyclopædia of touch and culture



A big pot of porridge was being made to be eaten with the ceremonial chickens. The paternal grandmother of one of the girls was in charge. She pretended to hand a spoon of porridge to each and then took it back. Then came the common Bemba rite known as ukulishya by which those who have undergone a ceremony or kept taboos are made free to eat again with the rest of the community. Such people cannot touch food with their hands. They must be made free to do so. In this case, Nangoshye touched the girls’ lips with the porridge and then made a big ball of it which each had to swallow whole. They were now free to eat with other people and join the ordinary life of the community again.

  • Source: Richards, Audrey Isabel. CHISUNGU: a girls’ initiation ceremony among the Bemba of Northern Rhodesia. London: Faber and Faber, 1956.
  • Culture: Bemba
  • Location: Africa