a journey

Nearly two weeks ago the lovely man who worked in our house unexpectedly, tragically died. He was a good, kind, gentle man; quick to smile. He leaves behind a wife and three young children. It is a tragedy. So on Friday, in a car adorned with strips of red cloth, several of the mine workers and myself followed the hearse west to Brong-Ahafo region. I remained in Sunyani while they delivered the body to his family home, just before the Côte d’Ivoire border. On Saturday myself and many others joined his family for the funeral. It was desperately sad, and I felt way out of depth. As I’ve said before, Ghana is a deeply religious country. Funerals are an event heavy with tradition and social custom. So different to the reserved way we celebrate the end of a life in Australia. At a Christian funeral in Ghana, the day after the death, canopies of red and black are erected at the family home, and you visit to pay your respects. Seats are arranged in a circle, and you shake hands from right to left, in order of seniority, Then you are invited to sit. After some minutes of quiet, the family stands and in turn shakes our hands and formally welcomes you. A family spokesperson will then confirm the death, and sometimes explain the circumstances of the death. Then you can speak or sit in quiet condolence, then take your leave. Often at the one week anniversary of the death a large gathering occurs, to announce the date and place of the funeral, after the senior members of the family have agreed to it. These ‘one week celebrations’ can be very large, with refreshments, and (remember this is Africa) music and dancing. Some funerals occur many months after death to allow as many mourners as possible to attend. While they are sad events, funerals are also major social occasions in Ghana. People will travel far and wide to attend a funeral. Posters are made, ‘Home Call’, ‘Rest in peace’, ‘Call to Glory’ or ‘Transition’ are common headings, and for young people I have seen the brutally honest ‘What a shock!’. The posters have a photograph, name and age of the deceased. It lists the date of the funeral, and the major mourners and family; a list which can run into the hundreds. Wealthy families sometimes erect billboards along the road, with a photograph and dates of the deceased life. Faded by the sun and rain, these billboards stand for years after the death as a reminder. While we are just visitors to Ghana, attending the funeral has been a reminder that no matter where you are or how you live, it is impossible not to share human connections. Not a week goes by in Ghana where you are not reminded of the presence of death. You see funeral canopies and hundreds of people dressed in black mourning cloth every Saturday, in every town. But once you have made a connection with someone, however small or for however short a period of time, it is impossible not to be affected. But tomorrow, the funeral.

6 responses to “a journey

  1. Pingback: a journey – part 2 | six degrees north·

  2. Hello Chrissie. l am a Ghanaian living in Kumasi. l chanced upon your blog this morning and have read several of your articles. I just want to commend you on the unbiased truth and understanding with which you write about my country. To me they are just the day to day things that happen here but you portray it from a different perspective that makes me appreciate it more and l love your sense of humor. I will definitely be reading more. Keep it up!

    Like

    • Dear Dora, Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I work hard at presenting an honest, but sympathetic view of Ghana, after all I am a guest here. But it really does make my day when a Ghanaian appreciates what I write about the country. Have a great day.

      Like

  3. Pingback: Looking to go out in style? Ghana’s fantasy coffins. | six degrees north·

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