The Barbaig Tribe
Rites into womanhood

Rites into womanhood


The sun bore down on Mureru, a Barabaig village in the Rift Valley plains of northern Tanzania. Here for over hundreds of years, the nomadic Barabaig tribe has herded their cattle on the volcanic highlands. Here the traditions have continued that have allowed for the survival of the Barabaig cultural identify.

In Mureru a ritual was about to take place that twelve year old Uda had long yearned for. It was her day for the rite of passage into womanhood. This day Uda would join the sisterhood of women and become available to be taken as a wife.

The tribeswomen formed a chain as they gathered inside the boma. They chanted their homage to Udaemselga, the female deity, guardian of the earth and steward of womankind.

Uda, her head held high, broke through the chain to enter the ceremonial hut. She lay on the grass mat.

Her mother and grandmother cradled her in their arm. Her co-mothers held her splayed legs. The circumciser raised the ritual razor, sliced her clitoris and scraped her inner lips.

Uda screamed in shock. Blood coursed down her legs. Tears streaked her face. She gasped and stifled her cries. Never would she dishonour her mother by showing her pain.

The mid-wife pulled the awl from her blood spattered leather apron and stitched the edges of the ragged flesh.

Uda heard the ululating of the tribeswomen as they celebrated her rite into woman hood.

Written by mamalinda