November 17, 2010
I had a most interesting experience on my way home from school today...I walked right smack into a group of young girls who were a part of the traditional bale (girls' "coming of age" ceremony). This is usually held way up in the mountains...a very secretive ceremony...rarely seen by outsiders...especially non-Basotho!
I asked my ntate about the ceremony, and he gave me the following information:
1. It's definitely a secret tradition, so I was lucky to witness the small part of it that I did.
2. Usually girls who do not do well in traditional school drop out and join this group. Ntate says the girls are quite often non-readers/writers.
3. The girls, just like the young boys in similar initiation groups, are circumcised...yes, even today.
My pictures are a bit unclear because I didn't want to stand too close with my camera! I was later told that camera men have been beaten and their cameras destroyed. These girls, however, did very obviously stop to perform for me and some other on-lookers, so I really doubt that anyone would have harmed my camera!
Their outfits were fascinating. They wore grass-like skirts which looked as though they might have been made from shredded plastic bags, very strange socks, wide, rubber-like belts around their waists, nothing above their waists and the strangest looking beaded masks. The upper parts of their bodies were covered in smeared gray clay. They all seemed very serious about what they were performing. They all also carried thin spear-like sticks, carved to a point at the tips.