Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Celebration of Death??

My international roommate (Vlasta) and I decided to go out one Saturday so I could show him around town. We picked a ‘trotro’ from campus to Madina, went through the market and then finally decided to take a trip to Aburi. Half way to our destination we were met by men, women and children who had flooded the street and caused a huge traffic jam. What was so peculiar about these people? They were all in black cloths - Vlasta who of course hadn’t experienced a Ghanaian funeral before asked me what was going on and I explained. Upon making it through the traffic we happened to pass by the funeral grounds and the scenery there merited these words out of Vlasta’s mouth: “Oh my God Kobe, the deceased must have been a terrible bastard!” Just before I asked why, I turned to look at what was going on and noticed that people were drinking and eating while others were dancing in the middle of the park – so typical. But whether Vlasta was joking or making an honest assumption, he clearly brought a significant matter to light: Ghanaian funerals are more glamorous than solemn.

A lot more money goes into funerals in Ghana than birthday parties. Some families go broke after a member dies and others end up in huge debt. There’s a certain tradition here that requires the dead to be ‘escorted’ well into the afterlife. This means the funeral has to be grand, lots of people have to attend and thus there should be lots of food and drinks and music (more highlife than dirges). Of course people mourn when the body is laid in state and at the burial grounds but in between these times and after the latter, it’s a party with an open invitation – yes the uninvited are there as well. For a random Opanyin Kojo somewhere, Saturday lunch is assured at any funeral he happens to come across announced in the newspapers. The likes of him read the Daily Graphic for the sole purpose of locating a promising meal. All that is required of him is a black cloth, a sorrowful face and one polythene bag for take-out, in case there’s more than enough food and drinks.

I remember the first real funeral my brothers and I attended was my grandfather’s. There was so much work to be done. We carried and fixed canopies, plastic chairs, tables and what not. “Aunties” and “uncles” we had never met before immediately claimed their “rightful” place in our lives momentarily upon knowing the great Papa Yaw Asiedu-Larbi was our grandfather. Conversation at the funeral was full of “give me one star”, the cho dey be”, “chale the booze finish?” and “I go make fine today!” The women just did what they do best – they gossiped. They gossiped about how the man died, what they think was wrong with him, who his last wife was and how they suspected she was a witch, office gossip and a whole lot more. Those who really mourned were his family who were even too busy making sure everything went well. At the end of it all a careful selection of highlife music was played and the dance floor was opened. The young and old, and the drunk, dancing their hearts out like the deceased had resurrected.

No doubt, some people want a celebration when they die but, at what and who’s cost? Even if it’s affordable, where is the sentimental value, the privacy, and the comfort of knowing that Kuuku and Yaa Maame truly sympathise with you and will be there for you even after the funeral to help you deal with your loss? The death of a loved one is a painful thing to deal with. But even more painful will be your own death, when at your funeral, Kweku Bonsam whom you hadn’t seen or spoken to in years, attends your funeral and enjoys a few bottles of Star beer with your friends, chatting, laughing, checking your sister or cousin out.... and at the end of the day the only comment heard is, “Oh the funeral was organized well!” instead of “We’ll miss him/her”.

Never mind the professional mourners; they only add more damage to your pockets. A truly meaningful funeral will be when those who mattered most to the deceased and vice versa come together to bury their loved one peacefully, and share stories of the good times they had with him/her.

Weeping may endure for a night but joy shall come in the morning, not at the funeral grounds.


This article was written by LSG Staff Writer Kobe Asiedu. Check out his blog.

1 comment:

JP said...

So very very true!!!! LOL!!!! :-)