The wrongs of a rite of passage


Baby girl isn’t it ironic that your parents warned you about playing with fire, yet urged you to tighten your grip on the sharp end of the knife…?

That's how the conversation begins with Neo Mahlangu - a well-established artist who currently works at FCB as a Creative Director - as she tackles the rite of passage that women across all boarders have to endure pain to be accepted into womanhood. Through her work Neo looks at this pain and asks why we allow ourselves to go through this unspoken rite of passage.

Her work brings to light the almost invisible type of pain: the pain women and girls put themselves through just for approval of either religion, culture, or the opposite sex. The pain that might be within or taught to the girl child and tomorrow’s women.

Neo makes the easiest example by highlighting the self-inflicted pain of high heels - every woman’s supposed guilty pleasure. Every woman knows how much those things hurt, just after an hour you can already feel your body screaming “WTF?!”, but you continue because it is your rite of passage (Bogaleng). She also taps on “kgothlella” because that’s what women do, they endure, and that is the only way to bring harmony and peace…so they say.

So baby girl, if you enjoy being cut with the sharp end of the knife, this conversation is probably not for you, but if it is catch the rest of this convo on Thursday night at Umuzi’s First Thursday’s at 70 Juta Street in Braam.

Neo on Insta

Neo on

Written by Xoliswa Njokweni and Tangie Matabula.

Video by Lindo-mar Khumbane

Clayton Bond