I’ve been at site now for almost a month and have been to four funerals – only a fraction of the number that have been held here in Eremon since my arrival. While the occasion is obviously unfortunate, the customs associated with a funeral are an integral part of Ghanaian culture.
First of all, there are on average about two to three funerals a week and each last for at least two days (depending on how long it takes to dig the grave). Everyone tries to go to every funeral. It’s that “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” ideology. Honestly though, I don’t know how anyone gets anything done around here between all the funerals they are going to.
When you get to the funeral grounds, you can immediately spot the raised shrine that contains the dead body
That’s right, I’ve now seen a number of corpses. The worst is that if you decide to wait until day two or three of the funeral, you have to endure the awful smell of decomposition. People stand in front of the “stage” and throw money on the ground (meant for the family to assist in payment of the funeral arrangements) before circling the podium in honor of the deceased. Those close to the person who died wear red scarves tied around their wrists. The wife or mother may wear a rope around her waist, tethering her to another family member, dedicated to preventing her from committing suicide due to grief. The women show their grief not by shedding tears, but by standing in front of the stage and wailing at the body in noises that I suspect sound similar to a dying cat. Excuse me if I don’t join in.
Once you’re done circling, which is dizzying in the hot sun, you sit by the band (and by band I mean two xylophones, a drum, and some bells) and drink pito. Pito is a beverage brewed locally from millet and can be fermented or unfermented. Either way, people here refuse to take “no” as an answer from me and I always end up with a huge calabash of pito and an awful stomachache. It’s an experience if nothing else, although I must say I prefer the Jewish way: put the body in the coffin, bury it, and bring lots of food.
I’ve been on a Florence kick recently, so here goes: