Sticking to tradition
Which customs do you keep, which ones do you let go? Masanda Peter looks at baby traditions.
As African people there are certain customs we do when a newborn arrives. These days I am seeing less of these being practised and I have also not done a few when my boy arrived. I was reminded of this recently when I went to see a friend of mine after she had a baby.

Just as I was taking the baby from her she told me ‘jojisa kuqala’ – a process where I will put my hands under my armpits and let the baby smell them to ensure that I do not have any bad spirits around me. If the baby cries, I should probably not hold him.

I was taken aback by this request but not offended because I know that when growing up one did not even have to be asked, it was only natural that a visitor would go through this process before holding a newborn baby. When I wanted to come see her just after the baby was born she told me that I had to wait for 10 days before seeing her newborn.

I respect people and their beliefs and at no point did I see my friend as being backwards. I was very impressed that she was sticking to her beliefs especially during these modern times.

Some people do not cut the baby’s hair for a year until their first birthday. This was very interesting for me as I was unaware of it until I asked a lady why the baby was rocking a serious afro.

I also found my friend using the popular ‘iyeza lomoya’ – a colic relief medicine used for babies. I was given this mixture when I had my son and I did not use it, since I did not know what the mixture contained. You might blame me for viewing this in a modern way but as a new mother you have so many people telling you what to use that you get overwhelmed. I have seen this work but I was not having it with my son.

I was not all rebellious though. I did obey a few things like using the famous Haarlemensis, to chase away bad spirits as well.
I buried the stump of my son’s umbilical cord back at home. The belief is that once this is done, a person will always remember where his roots are. He will remember to go home where he belongs. I am not sure of its effectiveness but as a parent I have the best hopes and intentions. You will find people asking each other ‘inkaba yakho iphi?’, meaning, ‘Where were you born?’ in trying to find out the person’s roots.

It is very interesting to see what different people do. It is all about respecting their beliefs as they play a significant role in their lives.

Read more by Masanda Peter

What family, religious or cultural traditions do you follow surrounding a baby’s birth?

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