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Not happy with Ghanaian funerals

Kwame Twumasi-Fofie is unhappy with the growing popularity of expensive and inappropriate funerals in Ghana.

Among Ghanaians in general, and the Akan people in particular, one event that brings us together more than any other is bereavement. 

In rural Ghana where even now birthday and wedding celebrations are virtually unknown, funerals have always been a significant feature of our social life. However, as funerals are all about mourning rather than partying, we in Ghana have completely lost its meaning, replacing it with commercialization and exhibitionism.   

Until quite recently, one significant aspect of Akan tradition was that mourning and feasting never went together. Today, however, when you attend a funeral you may be forgiven for thinking that it’s a big party with huge amounts of food on offer.

Video coverage has also become a familiar item on a funeral budget, which given the cost in what is still a relatively poor economy, makes little sense. 

Another well documented fashionable trend is the use of expensive coffins. They are now so costly that people are deliberately destroying them after depositing them in the grave so they won’t be stolen!  

Until very recently, bereaved family members only wore rubber sandals on their feet as it was considered inappropriate to be mourning while in expensive clothes. These days, however, ladies’ funeral clothing in particular are more suitable as party outfits.    

It is now common for bodies to be kept in the mortuary for six months or longer to enable dilapidated homes to be renovated or sometimes new ones built before the burial.  Previously the body would be buried as soon as possible and the funeral held at a later date.  Now dead bodies stay in the mortuary for as long as it takes people to raise funds for a ‘grand funeral’.  

The high cost of funerals is mainly due to our brothers and sisters living outside the country. Most of them are usually constrained from visiting home as regularly as they want due to their limited finances. Yet in their attempt to impress some spend lavishly on funerals with borrowed money which on their return, they try to recoup by organising parties under the guise of funerals. 

And the irony is that we do not really care much about the final resting place of the dead. Cemeteries in Ghana are often neglected, with weeds growing among the graves. 

It would be better if the huge sums of money spent on funerals could be used to improve the final resting place of our loved ones.  

It really is about time our traditional rulers, politicians, and religious leaders waged war against expensive funerals because it is destroying our society.

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Peter Erftemeijer edited on 19 Jul 13 at 12:05am
Peter Erftemeijer

It's funny how traditions are interpreted. Cost is one of them. Traditionally, the family paid for everything and guests/mourners then make a financial contribution. After the funeral, the costs are added up and any overpayment is distributed proportionally among family members who funded the funeral. These days it appears people come for the networking and forget about the contribution. Revisiting the traditions can benefit everyone!

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