An interesting insight into the funeral business in South Africa.
An interesting insight into the funeral business in South Africa.
Interesting insight into a funeral custom which we feel could make a transition to Britain in a modified form. What price Chippendale-style bearers?
India’s Zoroastrian community is breeding vultures so that it can once more dispose of its dead atop Towers of Silence.
Once vulture rich, with a population of around 400 million, India has seen a steep decline caused by poisoning. The vultures have been consuming painkilling meds administered to cattle. Their decline to a few thousand has compelled Zoroastrians, or Parsis, to opt for cremation instead.
Zoroastrians believe that corpses are a pollutant which injure the elements, which is why they should not be consumed by the earth or by fire.
Now, vultures supplied by the government are to be bred in aviaries. That they will be able to eat corpses will save large sums of money in food bills.
Before they are laid out, Parsi corpses must be certified free of diclofenac, the painkiller which also kills vultures.
The slideshow above shows Parsi priests honouring their dead, each of whom is represented by a vase of flowers.
A fine feminist manifesto here from Grace Mutandwa in the Zimbabwe Standard:
A group of my female friends are tired of being stuck in the house during funerals while their boys hang out at the shops and do fun things.
The girls want to know why it is cool for the boys to visit the local bottle store and swap war stories while the girls alternate between cooking, serving food and wailing like banshees. And they do not want the usual spiel about tradition this or tradition that!
Why is it all cool and dandy for the guys to stroll around in controlled emotion while women are expected to wail in show of pain and grief?
If a woman does not cry, she is labelled cold or a witch. And if tradition is so important, why is it that men who lose wives can remarry as soon as they can no longer bear living without a moving cooking, laundry and cuddling machine while women are expected to grieve for a year?
Is it really necessary to have a bunch of women thrashing about in feigned grief while the men get on with their lives?
Why do widows have to be stuck at the head of the corpse, but when a woman dies the husband gets to sit outside with his buddies? For all we know the reason why most men quickly remarry might be because while all the women are stuck in the house wailing, the widowed man and his buddies are busy going through their little black books trying to hook up the “grieving” hubby with some hot mama!
I get grief, but what I do not get is the need for whole extended families to hurl themselves into group mourning therapy even when they hated the guts of the dead relative.
Wouldn’t life be easier if we were a bit more honest? I am not saying that you should insult someone or say nasty things about the dead, but do we really have to lie? If someone is dead, they are dead — period!
There are films that bring tears to my eyes but I really find it difficult to cry at every funeral I attend. If I am not close to the person, I just feel faking it is the worst thing I could do at someone’s funeral. I get faking orgasms — many women play that card once-in-a-while (and it is a humane act, it protects men’s egos) — but faking tears is really beyond me.
When the husband dies, the tears might represent real grief or great relief and pure joy that they are free at last!
I am a ruddy realist and will be the first one to face up to the simple fact that by the time one spouse dies, most couples will have been transformed into two strangers sharing bills and helping each other raise children. So if you catch my drift — it really would be hard to shed tears for a stranger, even one that you occasionally shared body heat with.
I know apart from pretending to be a nice person, we sometimes have this uncontrollable urge to attend a particular funeral just to make sure the person is really dead.
The Rise of the Maori Tribal Tattoo
By Ngahuia Te Awekotuku
University of Waikato, New Zealand
Body adornment – swirling curves of black on shoulders, thighs, lower back, arms, upper feet, rear calves – has become an opportunity for storytelling as well. Some symbols represent children born, targets reached, places visited, and increasingly, memories of special people who have passed away.
In August 2006, Te Arikinui Dame te Atairangikaahu, affectionately known as the Maori Queen, died after a long illness.
Her people were devastated. Many wanted to commemorate her in a special way, and 16 women chose to memorialise her by taking a traditional facial tattoo. I was humbled to be one of them. There are now more than 50 of us, mostly older and involved in the ceremonial life of our people. It is a fitting memento mori.
But moko, most of all, is about life. It is about beauty and glamour, and its appearance on the bodies of musicians such as Robbie Williams and Ben Harper is not unusual. Although it is often contentious, raising issues of cultural appropriation, and ignorant use of traditional art as fashion.
However we must also acknowledge that Maori artists are sharing this art – they are marking the foreign bodies.
The important reality remains – it is ours. It is about beauty, and desire, about identity and belonging. It is about us, the Maori people.
As one venerable elder stated, more than a century ago, “Taia o moko, hei hoa matenga mou” (Inscribe yourself, so you have a friend in death).
Because it is forever.
Read the whole article published on the BBC website September 21st 2012 here
Posted by Evelyn
The body of Norodom Sihanouk, late king of Cambodia, returns home. He will lie in state in the royal palace for three months before his Buddhist funeral. Nice work by the embalmer.
From time to time we consider the purpose of a funeral as an event which enables mourners to express complex, disorderly emotion. Funerals in countries untouched by, or resistant to, chilly Nordic Protestant norms of self-restraint are notable for an exuberance which chilly Nords tend to regard as unbefitting, chaotic and emotionally incontinent.
It’s not as if chilly Nords don’t experience emotion. Why do they bottle it up? Perhaps it’s that they don’t like what it does to them.
Remember the polarisation of reactions to the grief for Diana?
Consider, also, the tendency of Brits to ugly brutishness when they let their hair down, especially when they’ve a drop taken. Perhaps they are right to keep it bottled.
Dressed in mini skirts barely covering their hips, the two girls took to the neon-lit stage and moved vigorously to the loud pumping pop music. Their job: to appease the wandering spirits.
As the temple facade in the background changed colour from the fireworks lighting up the Taiwanese night sky, the show climaxed with pole-dancing and striptease in front of an audience consisting of men, women and children.
Folk religion in Taiwan is a unique mixture of the spiritual and the earthly, and one of its most remarkable manifestations is the practice of hiring showgirls to perform at festivals, weddings, and even funerals.
“The groups attract crowds to our events and they perform for the gods and the spirits to seek blessings,” said Chen Chung-hsien, an official at Wu Fu Temple, a Taoist landmark in north Taiwan’s Taoyuan county.
“They have become part of our religion and folk culture.”
[Some] see it as a natural extension of a traditional folk culture lacking in the sharp separation of sex and religion often seen in other parts of the world.
Marc Moskowitz, an anthropologist at the University of South Carolina, said the practice evolved out of the special Chinese concept of “hot and noisy”, which brims with positive connotations.
“In traditional Chinese and contemporary Taiwanese culture this signifies that for an event to be fun or noteworthy it must be full of noise and crowds,”
In a delightful article in the Sunday Times of Zambia titled Food at Funerals in Zambia, which doesn’t actually get around to talking about Zambian funeral food at all, the writer describes current funeral customs in that country.
In the countryside, the old customs are alive and well: When death occurs, news spreads very fast. It just takes one or two full-blooded women to wail lungs out. Thereafter, people from all walks of life will gather to commiserate with the bereaved, even when the dead person might have been their ‘worst’ enemy – death is death! It is to be feared! It is an equaliser, people unite, and no arguments arise about its inevitability – some call it ‘kukomboka’/knocking off!
In towns and cities, funeral traditions display western influences, though it’s difficult to see what they are. The following is extracted:
Inevitably the web of all known relatives will also be used to communicate the sad news, and before you know it they will converge at the funeral house from all corners of the country.
The grief-stricken closest relatives – parents and others – sit on the floor, mourning, and sobbing in the living room. As relatives arrive they start mourning with a rising crescendo; some may even roll on the ground in their lamentation.
Duties, especially in the area of feeding of the mourners, will be given out. Customarily, the kitchen brigade is made up of traditional cousins of the deceased.
As the food is being prepared the brigade members will pass jokes and make a mockery of the deceased family who by an ‘unwritten law’ cannot ‘hit back’ then; they will bide their time until perhaps when a funeral occurs in the ‘attackers’ family. This is not ill-intentioned but the practice has its roots in history when the Ngonis and the Bembas fought pitched battles, with no clear victory for either side. Consequently, the truce that followed sealed an enduring peace to this day.
Now enter the professional mourners! In fact there are three main types of professional mourners: the first type is made up of people with their ears to the ground and are usually the first to learn about any funeral that takes place anywhere. They usually arrive first and kick up a raucous of loud mourning enough to wake up the dead. They then find their way to the place nearest where the food is being cooked. This is the real reason they attend funeral after funeral.
The second type of professional mourners is the story-tellers. They will behave like the first group, except that as they tear at their hair and amid sobs and copious outflows of grief they will tell cooked up stories about the deceased. For example they would say that the deceased was a good person, their late uncle, who had managed to educate most of his nine children, now who was going to look after the remaining three younger ones? Yet in fact there were no children, the marriage having taken place only two weeks ago! When all is said and done, the story-teller makes a beeline for the nearest food spot, consuming big potions so as to catch up with those that started eating earlier than they did.
Then topping the bill are some relatives who will mourn in a special way, punctuating the sobbing with pointed comments about the property: “What shall I do with the Toyota Cressida you have left behind? I don’t know how to drive.”
Another relative might answer: “Mutale will be driving you, my sister.” Or, “The deep freezer… It’s so big. How will I take to my village? No Zesco there!” The answer might be: “Just sell it and we can share the money.”
Such a parody of mourning can go on and on until all the property is shared in this manner or until after the burial when during the ending rituals (Isambwe lya mfwa: kutsiliza maliro) a brave/wise uncle will put a stop to the squabbling. Where there is no wise person all the property will be taken away and later the case will end up in court.
Full story here.
In Namibia, Michael M Liswaniso, writing for AllAfrica.com, deplores the new custom of spraying air freshener at funerals.
I will start by saying: Eish no please, enough is enough! It is partly inhumane and implies that our loved ones smell when we use air fresheners moments before we lower the coffin into the ground.
I have attended numerous funerals in this country but I have never seen anybody who stands next to the coffin and sprays it with some fragrances in the name of ‘Airoma strawberry’ or any other just to wind down the so-called ‘filthy smell’ emanating from the deceased inside the coffin.
That was until I attended the funeral of one of my close family members. I did not appreciate what I saw. The same thing happened at least at five different funerals in my mother’s town.
I know that when we die and are kept in the mortuary for several days – our lifeless bodies are likely to start disintegrating to an extent that they could partly smell, especially if the morgue is not functioning properly. But such a scenario is unlikely because of the hospital personnel who work hard to keep mortuaries in good working condition.
But to my surprise, most communities in Caprivi and funeral undertakers in some parts of the country have added the ‘air fresheners’ to their shopping list whenever they are to bury their loved ones. Apparently this is done to “avoid the bad smell at the final resting place of the deceased”.
Now, this is what perplexes me totally.
In all the funerals or burial services I attended in Caprivi and other parts of the country, there was no reek of any kind from the coffins. Yet, people continue to spray the coffins even during the funeral service in the church.
The practice distracts the mourners from paying attention to the service, disrupting the entire funeral service.
“Our morgue is always in a bad state that’s why many families have resorted to buying air fresheners at funerals just to avoid a bad smell emanating from the lifeless bodies of their loved ones,” said one source.
I find the practice disrespectful in the sense that even if there is really a bad smell, an 180 ml can of air freshener would never surmount the smell? I do not think so, given the fact that burials take place outdoors at cemeteries where fresh air strikes openly and freely. In addition, air fresheners are mainly meant for indoor ‘isolated’ areas – maybe at a memorial service in the church but still ….
“I saw it for the first time but we don’t do that in my tradition. It is really being disrespectful, it would even imply that the deceased is even stinking to the extent that even a dead dog with maggots is better while in actual fact that is not the case – we are human beings,” – these words came from a friend of mine who accompanied me to a funeral recently.
I have seen and heard of several people who have complained about the practice but the ‘new’ tradition seems to have found a new permanent home in Caprivi and other parts of the country.
My humble suggestion is for people to leave the deceased to take their last journey. Why not then bath our loved ones for the last time, and dress them in their favourite attire and let them wear their most ‘expensive’ perfumes that they might leave behind?
I guess this will help instead of letting one person spray around the coffin for several hours at the gathering. I hope this will assist, if not, then let’s look at other avenues that might work. Until next time, I say Kozo! Eewa