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Is our culture evolving or dying?_ All about umemulo

Following Sbahle Mpisane's recent umemulo, cultural expert Nomagugu Ngobese chats to us about the significance of the practice




Ngobese says that the cultural practice is performed by a girl’s family to celebrate her entering womanhood. She explains that umemulo is carried out on the assumption that the girl is still a virgin who’s now entering womanhood.


“The correct way culturally is to celebrate the girl while she’s still ‘pure’, but girls rush to have sex with men,” she says. “For that reason, parents tend to carry out the practice when the girl is no longer a virgin – which is wrong.”


She adds that it’s not the same as a 21st birthday celebration. “Some black people have lost their sense of tradition and use the 21st birthday to replace umemulo, which isn’t correct.


“When a young girl has umemulo, it doesn’t mean she needs to get married or leave home – it’s to celebrate her womanhood,” Ngobese says.



While black society in the late 1900s was vastly different to life in the 21st century, Ngobese points out that culture is not dynamic. “Culture is static; it doesn’t change,” she says.