Coming of Age
When do men quit being boys and
start being men? When do women become women? Each ethnicity
has its own practices. Practices that are becoming lost to
modernization or globalization, at least in the cities.
Maybe that is partly why the youth in the cities seem to
have so much less respect for everything including
themselves. Rights of passage are important for
self-esteem. Finding one's place in society is essential
for the society to run smoothly.
The Berabish, Tuaregs of the open desert in northern Mali have these rights:
Boys, when they reach their sixteenth year, must join a salt caravan. Once they have completed the Azalai, accompanied the men to Taoudenit and back, with all the attendant trials, walking for 10 or 12 hours a day loading and unloading the camels etc. They too can be considered men.
Girls are considered women once they have menstruated for the first time. The girl’s mother is the only one to be told but everyone else will know the same day for the girl may now wear the veil, or meulf that is the traditional woman’s dress, six yards of fabric wrapped around the body and over the head. This change in status is accompanied by a celebration inducing drumming and dancing. It is quite important as now she is eligible to be married and men may come seeking her hand.