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CELEBRATING THE DEAD: A major pastime in Ghana
In Ghana, when someone dies, they have a funeral and all the friends and relatives are invited. It is usually at least a 3-day affair. Sometimes it goes for one week and hundreds of people can be involved. Funerals are an industry. Coffins can be of polished wood, covered in gleaming silver (acrylic?), or commissioned in the shape of something dear to the departed – a cocoa pod for a cocoa farmer, a microphone for a DJ, a ship for a fisherman, a church for a pastor. I’ve even seen a cobra and a chicken. Women wear long skirts with a matching top and head wrap – sometimes a family will have fabric printed with the name of the family, a picture of the dearly departed, or a family symbol and they will all wear outfits made from this cloth. If the deceased is older, black and white is usually worn. If they are younger, red and black. Funerals are held from Friday to Sunday. The streets are clogged with traffic following hearses on Fridays. Tents are raised and the mourners amass around huge speakers. The early ceremonies are sombre, but by the second and third day the dancing begins, the music is loud and food is served. Attendees are expected to contribute to the cost of a funeral – the closer you are to the deceased, the more your contribution. Some villages specialize in wreaths and the streets are lined with them. Coffin shops abound. Posters of the deceased are also common and can stay up for years. They feature a picture of the person, along with a heading such as Call to Glory, Dangerous Exit, Going Home, Gone Too Soon. The age is also featured. Driving through a village in the Volta Region I saw one lady’s age…130. How can that be?