The diverse Eastern Cape Province of South Africa is a special place for me and many other interesting folks who call this home. Expect the unexpected here, the natural landscapes of South East Africa demand humble awe from all who are enraptured by its dynamic "mood variations" - snow tipped peaks just 300 km from miles and miles of tropical beaches - semi-deserts border jungle with wide rambling rivers which amble to the sea.
For a long time, the men of this region, members of the Xhosa tribe (of Nelson Mandela and other titans of our times) have echoed the natural sentiments/callings from this bush - with a rite called Makweta.
Call it a mall of manhood, if you wish, the bush or forest in this region is the place young men have almost eternally gone to, to get their "wings". Initiation rites are serious business here and this African jungle is the worthy place to galvanise men.
Culture and jungle intertwine in the passage from childhood to adulthood in the most natural and authentic fashion. Respect is measured in terms of bush.
Those who've never "been to the bush" are fated to face others derision as immature and not real men. A simple sign that you've not attained the next step up from childish abandon until forged by the forest and developed an understanding of it and have a personal bond with it.
I cannot think of a more natural and unsophisticated interrelationship between wood and man than what we have right here. Have you been to the bush ?
Here the bush initiate is called an "amakweta" and this tradition and link with the bush is taken very seriously and the boys are not considered men unless they complete and survive the jungle ritual.
In the bush the boys are not only circumcised by a witch doctor, they also then have to survive two weeks in the wilderness and learn to fend for themselves. They build themselves shelters and paint themselves white with a mixture of chalk and water-which wards off evil spirits.
In the spirit of "ubuntu" - the xhosa philosophy signifying "I am because we are" the bush will give the young amakweta's Muti, medications of plant and animal origin imbued with spiritual significance, often with powerful symbolism.
There are medicines for everything in the bush which the amakweta's must and will discover - from cures for physical and mental illness, spiritual strength from powerful ancestor filled landscapes to aid social disharmony and spiritual difficulties - to potions for love and luck.
Muti straight from the mall of manhood (the bush) can be drunk, smoked, inhaled, used for washing, smeared on the body, given as enemas, or rubbed into an incision.
In South Africa our mall of manhood tradition is still going strong and hardly an eyebrow raises at the prospect of a city slicker software programmer returning to his roots for this essential passage of manhood. What better way could there be to bond man and nature ?
This is ‘nature's forest service’ inspired by people who bond with nature to celebrate World Environment Day. Be sure you "go to the bush" or celebrate this link with the environment on the United Nations Environment Programs World Environment Day (WED).