Bellowing sounds of horns, whistles and drums re-echo through the ranges of Mount Elgon.
Youthful men clad in traditional wear sing along, moving from village to village, signaling the start of the biennial traditional circumcision ceremony, commonly referred to as Imbalu, a centuries’ old initiation ritual into adulthood among the Bamasaba people.
Bamasaba is an ethnic group of about 7 million people along the common border between Uganda and Kenya.
Imbalu is a revered custom of initiating teenage boys into adulthood. Without anesthesia, the boys are circumcised in public as a sign of showing bravery and to indicate that they are ready to face any hardships in life without giving up.
The event is held every even year starting in the month of August and ending in December.
At the beginning of the year, a teenage boy voluntarily informs the father of his intention to get circumcised. The father then starts the preparations among which include planting millet, buying a bull that would be later given to the boy as gift after circumcision.
In mid-year, the boy intending to get circumcised accompanied by his peers visits relatives informing them of the initiation ceremony. The relatives in turn give the boy gifts.
On the D-Day, the candidates are presented before the ‘traditional’ surgeons. The surgeons are appointed by ancestors through spiritual powers.
This year the Bamasaba are marking 200 years since the start of the practice.