Monankim is a word from the language of the Bakor people, a group of minority tribes from Cross River State, Nigeria. It refers to the process by which a girl is circumcised and celebrated as she enters womanhood. A Monankim must be a virgin between the ages of 14 and 18. After circumcision she is held in a fattening room, where she heals and recovers before she is presented to the community as an idolized symbol of purity and a desirable wife.
The rite of passage is not without its dangers: Some suffer severe bleeding, and others don’t survive. The ritual is now highly controversial.
“Monankim” was realized after extensive interviews with young women, some of whom were frightened at the prospect while others looked forward to their own time. It also depicts the artist’s conflicting values, being from one of the minority tribes of the Bakor herself.
Jenevieve Aken is a Nigerian photographer and storyteller who focuses on social documentary photography. She has participated in the past three editions of LagosPhoto Festival and exhibited work in New York, Berlin, Venice, South Africa, and elsewhere.