Boys and girls undergo different initiations to prepare them for manhood and womanhood. The main initiation boys undergo is murundu or mula. This is where boys between the ages of ten and 20 are circumcised and taught proper behaviour. Initiates are taught to respect women, to take care for their families, to be responsible husbands and fathers, and to lead by example.
The principal of murundu is known as Madala, while the surgeon is known as Maine. They are both appointed by the community to lead the murundu. The maine, who is also a diviner, is also responsible for ensuring that evil spirits and witches are kept at bay. He is, therefore, responsible for the physical and mental wellbeing of the initiates.
The culture of murundu is, however, dying amongst Vhavenda since most parents prefer to have their sons circumcised at the hospital or clinic. Very few communities are still sending their boys to a murundu. But more than 90% Vhavenda boys and men are circumcised, even though the vast majority of those born after 1980 were circumcised at the hospital, or clinic.
The unfortunate part about the death of male initiation is that boys are no longer learning about what it means to be a real man and to be a responsible father and husband. It should be borne in mind that circumcision was just part of the entire initiation, and not the only reason why boys had to be initiated.
Girls undergo three different initiations. These are musevhetho for young girls, vhukomba for girls who have just reached puberty, and domba for girls ready for marriage. In all these initiations girls are taught proper behaviour, to be responsible wives and mothers, to be the powers behind the thrones, etc. Contrary to popular opinion, girls are not circumcised since the concept of female circumcision does not exist in the Tshivenda culture.
The culture of female initiation is also dying. Most communities have abandoned musevhetho, vhukomba and domba. But some chiefs are trying hard to revive both male and female initiation.
Musevhetho Graduation Ceremony: Makhado Township, 13 July 2008