In an effort to reduce the HIV infection rate that comes as a result of traditional circumcision, South African Fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo has come up with a circumcision toolkit. As someone who has gone through the process and seen so many young boys die from it, he has combined tradition with modern medicine to preserve culture, while making it safer.
Ngxokolo has always drawn on the colors, beading and symbolism of Xhosa culture, reinterpreted into a modern knitwear clothing range. Until now, his fascination with the traditional journey into manhood has focused on the formal gentlemanly attire that has to be worn for six months by the amakrwala, the men who have completed the initiation ritual.
His range is sold in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Along with a string of awards, he also got a publicity-boosting shout-out from Beyoncé. But this year, for his master’s project for the Central Saint Martin’s art and design college at the University of Arts London, Ngxokolo decided to create this circumcision toolkit.
“I just wanted to do something that is more meaningful, that is not only confined to design but to social responsibility as well,” the 29-year-old designer told Quartz. “I felt I needed to do something as iXhosa and someone that has the design know-how.”
The satchel is beaded in the straight clean lines Xhosa design is known for and contains an embellished staff like the one healers have carried for centuries. But there is also hand sanitizer, antiseptic ointments, and bandages packaged in beaded holders so that they are more traditionally “acceptable.”
These modern additions “are pretty basic but have high impact,” said Ngxokolo. The toolkit comes with a pamphlet designed to provide simple but life-saving instructions on hand-washing and other safety practices in simple graphics. The tools in the kit don’t speed up the healing process—in keeping with the ritual’s requirements—but they could ensure that the initiates do not contract infection or HIV.