Laduma Ngxokolo: Design for safer circumcision rituals

Young South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo looks into how you can make Xhosa circumcision rituals safer in his Central Saint Martins graduate project.

For his Material Futures graduate project at Central Saint Martins in London, South African star designer Laduma Ngxokolo looks into how the traditional Xhosa circumcision ritual can be made safer. "The idea has been at the back of my head for a while now, I felt that I my MA project was a great way I could speak about the massive elephant [in the room] that a lot of people that should be responsible for do nothing to change," says Ngxokolo. 

His project Safer Xhosa Circumcision is a hygienic and safe medical kit, designed to confront health concerns of the traditional rituals around male circumcision.

According to Statistics from the South African Government, a total of 969 deaths have been recorded since 1995 due to health complications that have occurred as a result of the manhood circumcision practiced by the Xhosa people of South Africa. 

The Xhosa manhood circumcision initiation is an ancient ritual that has been practiced by the Xhosa for centuries. The ritual is intended as a teaching institution to prepare boys for manhood responsibilities.

Given the ritualistic significance of the Xhosa circumcision process, the current method is extremely primitive and often neglects any sort of modern medical practice that could aid in the healing process. Because of this, hundreds of young men suffering severe complications as a direct result of this ritual die from their injuries each year.

The aim of this project is to confront the health concerns of Xhosa circumcision by introducing more hygienic and safer medical interventions that are packaged and designed in a manner that is both ritualistic and safe, hopefully leading to contemporary health care being accepted by the Xhosa and embedded in their practice. 

Ngxokolo is known for his Xhosa inspired knit-wear range, MaXhosa. He launched his career as part of Design Indaba’s Emerging Creatives programme in 2011 and this year he won Design Indaba’s MBOISA 2016 for one of his MaXhosa shawls. He also presented on stage as one of the Global Graduates at Design Indaba Conference 2011, watch his talk now. 

Watch the Talk with Issa Diabaté