A tribal coming-of-age ritual is the setting for this tough but sensual gay romance
John Trengove’s tough, beguiling debut looks at what happens when queerness throws a wrench in the rusty machinery of traditional masculinity. Set in the mountains of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, it centres on the Xhosa tribe’s circumcision ritual of Ukwaluka, in which young men come of age under the careful watch of their “caregivers”. Co-written with Thando Mgqolozana (whose 2009 novel A Man Who Is Not a Man visits the same subject), it embeds itself in a community of scythe-swinging, dick-slinging machismo.
Xolani or “X” (Nakhane Touré) is a young, closeted factory worker in Queenstown who is assigned as caregiver to a young initiate from the city: sensitive, pouty Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini). “They trust you with the softies,” says a colleague. Kwanda could indeed be called a softie (or certainly, a snowflake); teased for his expensive shoes, and prone to politically charged monologues, he is marked as an anomalous initiate with western attitudes (perhaps acting here as a stand-in for white South African director Trengove).