Art and Initiation Among the Yaka and Suku

by Arthur Bourgeois
Professor Emeritus, Governors State University

Initiate relaxes before a fire following his circumcision, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1976. Photo by Arthur Bourgeois.

A newly circumcised Yaka youth, the oldest of his group and therefore titled mbaala, holds in one hand charm packets insuring protection from ndoki (witches) and a live chick.  Likewise the circumcisor and each n-khanda official is ritually treated with protective and strengthening charms.  Charms are inserted in the ground throughout the site and special barricades are erected.  The extensive use of charms following circumcision indicates that a causal relationship between serious infections and an unsanitary operation and subsequent hazing and mistreatment are not held as significant as harm due to concealed envy or ill-will on the part of humans.  The use of masks partakes of this same concern.