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Ubuntombi – a Zulu religio-cultural heritage and identity: a path to adulthood and sex education practices.

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In view of diminishing indigenous knowledge of most cultural practices this study sought to investigate the ways in which ubuntombi as an indigenous practice can be emancipated and retrieved as a Zulu religio-cultural heritage and identity and a path to adulthood and sex education practices. This qualitative empirical research study used interviews and focus group discussions to collect data. In addition, participant-observation was also used as the researcher observed and recorded cultural activities of izintombi (Zulu girls). The study worked with postcolonial theory, and African feminist cultural hermeneutics framework. This was to assess how ubuntombi has evolved and how colonialism and the patriarchal cultural context of the Zulu ethnic group contributed to the way in which the practice of ubuntombi was understood. Thus, the study required a critical lens of the oppressive and life denying issues to women. The study also encompassed indigenous knowledge systems as a perspective because ubuntombi is an indigenous cultural practice that like many others was despised and demonised by the colonial and western mindset. Some of the significant findings of this study were that ubuntombi was one of the critical stages of development in the cycle of human development among the Zulus. While a girl child was welcomed as intombi from birth into the Zulu family, she only became fully recognised as intombi (young virgin) during puberty as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. Therefore, this was a critical time for sex education, which was regarded as an essential part of her maturing process to adulthood. There were particular social structures (such as amaqhikiza and grandmothers) that provided sex education to the maturing young women and were dismantled by the invading colonists. Constructive aspects of ubuntombi as a traditional cultural practice (such as sex education) were eroded during the colonial invasion. This study found that it is no longer practical for young women to go back to the traditional practice of ubuntombi as a cultural practice even though there are those who currently live as izintombi in a hostile environment and require social support. This study concluded that there are positive aspects of ubuntombi that can be retrieved that were summed up in the RCLC model which proposed ubuntombi as an indigenous sex educational tool. If effectively used, this tool can provide sex education to the current group of izintombi and others. This might restore indigenous sex education that has been lost during colonialism and never replaced to date.


Doctoral Degree. School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2018.