19 June 2008

At the mercy of modernization

OhmyNews reports tourism is eroding the tribal culture of Zimbabwe’s Tonga people1. One of the customs in danger of extincition is the traditional rite of passage ceremony for girls:
Powerful and heavily built men are usually assigned to get a hold of any girl in the village that has reached puberty and is almost ripe for marriage before tying her hands and legs with ropes.

The Tonga tribesmen then pin down the now bound girl and immediately start striking her front teeth out. Usually they remove three at the top and three at the bottom.

Even when blood oozes from the gaps where the teeth had been, and the girl cries out in pain, she receives no help, as both men and women in the area enjoy it. At times a girl's head will swell from the knocking.

This is a rite the Tonga people have jealously guarded. They vow that their traditions cannot be dismantled in spite of the so-called modernization and rapid tourism growth that is encroaching their homeland.

"We will try hard to continue to engender this practice even if our traditions are at the mercy of modernization," said Tolo Siyachilima, an elderly Tonga man.2
So consider the side effects of your visit before booking that dream vacation to Zimbabwe, and if you do go avoid local dentists.

1The Tonga people are also called the ‘Batonga people'. Don't confuse the Tonga/Batonga with Tongans in Tonga. Batonga are Bantu, cousins of the Batoka. Many Batonga live in the Binga.

2
OhmyNews reporters Gail Muza and Stephen Tsoroti (Tisa) are funny, aren't they?

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