Saturday, May 16, 2015

Funeral in Ghana

                On Friday, the group and some of the Dagbe staff attended a funeral about twenty minutes from the village we are staying in. Unlike funerals in the US, in Ghana people who did not know the deceased were welcome to join in the ceremony. We walked through neighboring farmland, and had a fantastic view of palm trees and a slightly clouded sky behind the corn and cassava crops. We then entered a large, slightly wooded clearing, passing by merchants selling food, drinks, and random necessities. I was thankful for the shade provided by trees after walking in intense sunlight for twenty mintues or so. There were two areas where groups of drummers were playing, surrounded by people sitting in a squareish shape, with room to dance in the middle. Those who wanted to dance would wait until space cleared, and enter the dance floor. Pretty much everyone in the group ended up dancing, as it is a custom for people to grab others and invite them to the dance floor. 
       One group played Agbeckor, the social dance where participants bend their elbows and press their shoulders together to the beat of the drum while stepping forward across the floor. I was holding a water bottle in my right hand up by my chest, which I later found out is how you signal to someone that you want to give them something, so I had two women take my water bottle and drag me onto the dance floor. I tried to remember the movements as I had many sets of eyes on me being the only white person in the dance area.The other drum group had a smaller space for daning, where two to four people displayed more improvisational dancing. Although the drumming areas were pretty cheerful and upbeat, the overall tone of the funeral was kind of strange and solemn, as the deceased had gone unexpectedly. Joss and Brian mentioned that normally, funerals would be more upbeat; a celebration of the one who passed. They spoke of one they attended for a master drummer, where he was posed behind a drum, and buried in a drum-shaped coffin.
People wore a variety of types of clothing, from traditional fabric garb to Western T-shirts dress clothing, sunglasses, and baseball or flat-rim caps. Others wore a mix of styles. The pre-burial ceremony seemed chaotic  from our point of view, but was in line with normal practices in the area; a group of eight or so people lifted the coffin of the deceased above their heads, rocking it back and forth to the music, running it around to different areas where the passed soul spent time in his life. One had to be careful to stay outside the path of this procession. This was very touching, and at this point the grief of family and friends was visible. Overall, this experience was new and unique to anything I have experienced before.

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