Instead of our regular dance and drumming class, we went to a traditional funeral. After a long and bumpy ride, we arrived at Bonwire village, one of the kente villages. The site was quite beautiful. Hundreds of guests both inside and outside the tents created a sea of black and red – the traditional mourning colors. The elder men would wear their fabric wrapped around their torso and thrown over one shoulder, baring half their chest. It seemed customary for the elder women to wear a black or red headpiece.
One of the things that I noticed about the funeral is that no one appeared particularly sad. In fact, if it were not for the characteristic mourning colors, you really would not have any idea that people were gathered for a death. I am told this is likely because the family has plenty of time to grieve between the time of the death and the execution of the funeral.
I think the age of the deceased can impact the overall tone of the funeral, as well. When it comes to the ones we love, there is never really a right age to die. I get the impression that mourning focuses on the celebration of a long rather than the mourning of a death. For instance, whenever I put on my “funeral face” to shake hands with the family members, I would look them in the eyes and say hello or sorry. And this was met with either a laugh or a look of confusion. This reaction could be chalked up to my “oburoni” status, which by its very nature provokes laughter in many Ghanaians, even those at funerals. But I am not so sure… I have a feeling Ghanaians have a way of dealing with death that is a lot healthier than many of us back home.
Speaking of oburoni, I was actually concerned about being the only oburonis at the ceremony, I did not want to give off the impression that we took to funerals as a tourist activity. Luckily, we were greeted really warmly! Like really warmly. People even offered us water. They also offered us coke after our donation to the funeral, which is said that it is typical for every person to donate in a funeral.
I had many, many thoughts from attending the funeral. It was not until I stepped out of the tro tro that I felt disrespectful and rude for attending the funeral. I did not dare to take a picture myself because I had put myself in their situation without realizing it. Having lost a loved one and then foreigners come to attend the funeral, I would feel uncomfortable and unsafe in a way. I would not have the space to express myself from the loss. However, I then clued in to the fact that my attendance was quite important. Not because I’m important but because the act of demonstrating your support is important. And although this is the case in America too, it is not practiced quite to the same extent as Ghana.