I know Chris and I write a lot about funerals on this blog. I’m sure you are wondering “What the heck is going on over there that’s causing people to die so much?” Well let me tell you, it’s not that people are dying any more here than they are in the rest of the world. It’s just that Ghanaians have rich, elaborate funeral traditions. Each funeral is 3-5 days long, some funerals take place years after the person has passed (we went to one recently where the woman passed away three years ago, and over the way they were preparing a funeral for a person that passed away 15 years ago!) We don’t fully understand why this is, from what we have gathered it’s about saving the money for the party as well as gathering the family from all over together. People can have multiple funerals as well. Funerals take place during the dry season (now). Once the rainy season begins they will cease. It’s taboo to bury a person the same planting season they pass away in, so the family must wait until the next year’s harvest to hold the funeral. So that’s a bit of background as to why we have been attending so many funerals lately- it’s a great social hour, cultural event, and has nothing to do with the free food.
Now getting to my title, let me tell you a little bit about what happens when Chris and I show up to these funerals. We saunter up maybe with a little head bob to the beat that is playing. Immediately, hordes of people are rushing over to greet us. They take us by hand and usher us into the middle of all the action, give us the nicest seats in the place and begin siphoning Pito into our calabashes. We drink the Pito and eat the delectable Bombaro beans with Kosi (a local bread) as they are placed in front of us. By now, all of the attendees have come to greet us (How are you? How is your husband/wife? How is your health?). We answer and return the questions with cheeks full. Sometimes mid-way into this we receive what we have come to call “the motion”. The motion happens, without fail, at every funeral. Yesterday, I received the motion to join the band upon the roof as a flute player. The funeral before, we both got the motion to attempt our version of the local dance (think a backwards paddling the boat with knees to chest simultaneously) in the middle of the drum circle. After we have thoroughly embarrassed ourselves and our country (sorry America) with our attempts, we try to make a good cultural move by going to greet the deceased’s family. We try out that fancy prayer we learned in Kasem class only to have to repeat it 5-6 times while blank faces stare back. Eventually one person in the group picks up on our American accent and translates what we have been trying to say to the rest of group. Funny thing, they ALWAYS crack up. Apparently these fellas (foreigners) got jokes.
Finally, all cultured, socialized, and fooded our we try to make a discreet exit (though it’s become apparent this is an impossibility). Once our 100 “de vu sey de bas” (we will go and come or catcha later!) have been sung we slip out the back. At this point I’m thinking to myself that we quite possibly just starred in someone else’s funeral. No exotic, foreigner types better be trolling in at my funeral. 😉 That’s all I’m saying !
Cheers to all!
The war dance gettup. I’ll try to get a video of this next time. They do an elaborate drama- like dance called the war danced at the funerals for older, male community leaders
One crew brewing Pito before the festivities begin. There were over 50 pots I just couldn’t fit them all in the frame. They were having a great time out there whooping and hollering. Tradition says a loud, prolonged whoop makes the pito brew faster. It was quite a time.