Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Ghanaian Funeral: Part 1


Funerals are held on the first weekend of the month. People always die, and so there are always funerals. It did not take me long after looking over this invitation to realize this was like nothing I had ever experienced before.


This fancy program is typical of a Ghanaian funeral. These programs are very expensive, but performing funeral rites correctly is taken very seriously. They believe that the spirit of the family member holds them responsible for the procession. You must be 18 or older to attend.


Chase in his traditional garb. It has extra yards of fabric to allow flexibility in dancing. Shoes are also necessary to attend a funeral. The official funeral colors can be red, black, or white. White represents purity and spirituality, and red and black both signify mourning.


Seeing Jima made my day. He was a local. He knew what to do. Up till then Rachel Morse and I were lost and had been attending the wrong funeral, feeling clueless and culturally incompetent. Jima explained to us that 10 cedi a person was too much to donate.


Jima lead us to a rented out compound where people were gathered. Here they served us Fanta and Coke products. The caps from these bottles were supposed to be thrown on the floor and gathered up by the children to earn money. They also served shish kabob type food with beef (or something like beef) and vegetables on a stick.

Group Picture

Everyone minus Maggie. We are all wearing the funeral colors, but the girls wore a western style to avoid offense. We would have been okay either way, but we felt more comfortable in clothes from our paradigm.

Set Up

The shrine in the middle has a picture of the deceased person. The chairs set up are all plastic and red. It looks like a sea of red and black. The center is open for dancing and donations. A DJ and a box is set up front with a few family members who take the donations.

Greeting the Elders

Before you can sit down you must greet the elders. The widow holds flowers and you are not supposed to shake her hand. This step is very important. We donated 20 cedi as a group.


When they told us we had to dance the obruni’s turned red as tomatoes. At this point I had to step back from the experience to photograph it. A part of me wishes I could have experienced both, but it does not work that way.


This photo makes a lot more sense in retrospect. I later learned that we were supposed to be doing a certain type of dance called the Adowa. The handkerchief the woman is waving also means that we should have donated more.

Post Greetings

After dancing and donating you hang around for a few minutes or a few hours to watch the other performers. You bid the family farewell, thank them for their kindness, and then go home or to the next funeral down the road.


1 comment:

  1. It's incorrect that the handkerchief meant you have to donate more money. Ghanaian just like to wave thier handkerchief whenever they dance. I am a Ghanaian but live in NJ having moved here from the UK.