Cultural and Western funeral traditions, A cultural exploration by Lunga Ndeleni

Having been to a funeral recently, I must say, it was good. How could a funeral be good you may ask? Let me break it down for you. Firstly, the food was good. The kind of food you get when you take your partner or family out to eat at a fancy restaurant, top class. There was every kind of food you could possibly think of, well not all, but the kinds of food you wouldn’t expect to eat at a funeral. People in attendance, I must admit the more the merrier. There were more than eighty people, plenty of cars and even a few taxis. Its like a wedding, but only with a coffin instead of the bride and groom, a hearse instead of a limousine, crying people instead of cheering. So it was indeed a good funeral, that’s how we rate burials in our newly found tradition.

I thought to myself, since black people have traditional clothing, music, food, dance, weddings, basically everything so should there be traditional funerals. To be honest, I don’t know much about them so I asked around. I wanted to know how traditionally we buried our loved ones or at least how Africans were buried before the influence of western civilization.

I found out that in some South African cultures women and children were not even allowed to go to the graveyard when their loved one was being buried, it sounds cruel but this was their culture. My opinion didn’t matter. I believe that the idea was to dignify funerals, but I digress. There was not much delicious food at funerals. The only common food was just iinkobe (corn), umqombothi (African Beer) for men, and a slaughtered cow or a goat. The cow or goat was to appease the deceased in the eyes of the ancestors. It was more affordable than it is today.

Back to the 21st century, a lot has changed. What I’ve noticed so far is that some people attend funerals because of all the great food. It’s a feast I tell you. Sometimes they don’t even know the deceased or their family but still they attend. We have to admit though with high food prices and unemployment some of us cannot afford restaurant and nice foods anymore so we go to funerals ,that’s where free food is at. This is why sometimes you see hundreds of people attending a funeral. I don’t blame anyone, if I didn’t have food that’s precisely what I would also do. I would get myself a Daily Sun, look under the section Funeral Notices and go to nearby funerals. I would bring padkos for my wife and kids, that’s what people do anyway.

Should we go back to tradition in this matter, bury like our forefathers? I personally think we should. For one, we would save a lot of money especially with our economy being unstable. Secondly, we would save a lot of time. It takes a lot of time to prepare all the food and the funeral arrangements are laborious. Lastly but not least, that would restore dignity to our lost diverse cultures.

Then again I am thinking about the roasted chicken, drumsticks to be precise, that beef stew, green salads. Oh man I love me these new funerals. I don’t want to be eating iinkobe (corn), drink umqombothi and salty half cooked meat. You see, funerals today are about feeding the hungry and the poor so that a good deed, I guess.

So the morning after, I went back to the house where they had a funeral for leftovers and guess what?

I ate my fill.

Lunga Ndleleni

Bangula Language Contributor