Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Various African Funeral Customs Including South African After Tears Parties

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents information about funeral customs in various African nations. An addendum to this post includes information & commentary about the South African [nation] custom of after tears parties after the funeral.

My thanks to all persons who are quoted in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.


Biggie Motherland
BBAS: Uti's Case And Nigerian Funerals
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 by Segololo

Editor's Note: That blog post was written by Segololo, a contestant in Big Brother Africa. The post provides information about funeral customs in Nigeria, in large measure in response to discussion among the contestants about the decision by contestant Uti not to leave the competition to return home to Nigeria for his [or her]* father's funeral. Information about funeral customs in other African nations besides Nigeria is provided in the comments to that blog.

*My apologies. I don't know the gender of Segololo, Uti, or any of the other contestants who commented about this column. Nor did I know anything about Big Brother Africa until I happened upon this column in my online search for information about African funeral customs. Click for information about Big Brother Africa.

Excerpts from Segololo's post on Nigerian funeral customs
"With the Islam faith – when someone dies; they are “buried within 24 hours (all things being equal) -irrespective of the age, status or wealth of the deceased. It does not matter where the children of the deceased resides (USA, Russian, China, Jericho, end of the earth, etc); the corpse will not be kept for their arrival; it must be buried with the Islamic prescribed time in the Koran of within 24 hours.

"All things being equal" means that the circumstances 0f the death are not a murder case or any other foul play that may require the corpse to be kept for further investigation. But the celebration is the same especially if the person is older than 70 years”

“In Christianity, there is no time frame for burying the dead, thus this can take up to a year or more (in some cases) to bury the deceased; and people can truly go to town on this.

Here tribe, tradition and culture does play critical roles. The length of the burial time depends on the following:

[Lists different determinants for Christain funerals including tribe, status, gender, number of wives, number of children, "and And "a multitude of other determinations that are too numerous to list.”]

When the deceased is older than 70; has grown children, prominent and wealthy. The children will not wear black; they will wear bright colors (preferable the deceased favorite colors) and wear white to the church service. The party is to celebrate the life and achievements of the deceased.

This is where the children will show off all their achievements which would all be attributed to the good upbringing of the deceased. Congratulatory obituaries (full pages) will be taken out in the newspapers - obituaries are very big business."...

The actual funeral activity in each of the cases described above (except Muslim) is four days as follows:

Thursday for the coming together of all family members and finalizing on who does what;
Friday for the wake-keeping which is an all night affair of singing dancing, crying, drinking and all out merriment (if deceased is old);
Saturday for the actual funeral; then an all night party afterwards; and
Sunday for church service to close the funeral/burial celebration; then another partying after church..

Several streets are usually closed for these celebrations (off course with written permission from the municipality).

If it a king dies, the whole community will be involved in the preparations and if Uti was from a Royal family (a Prince), there would have no discussion of leaving; he would have had to leave the show and go home.”...
Selected Comments To This Post:
Reply from: Fluffy Head Wednesday, September 01, 2010 12:24 PM
“Thanl you Sego... Really interesting stuff... Especially the clothing part. You know in my culture (Xhosa-Gcaleka) you wear something bright at a funeral they consider that a sign of disrespect!!! While elsewhere its expected of you. So reall this whole thing boils down cultural differences.”

Reply from: Segololo Wednesday, September 01, 2010 12:33 PM
"@Fluff …I also think my culture* would look down on people wearing white to a funeral... because it is considered disrespectful and like the person in bright colours is set to gain something from the death"...
From a subsequent comment I learned that Segololo's culture is Batswana/Basotho

Reply from: Segololo Thursday, September 02, 2010 08:21 AM
"@Makgotso - I also still can't get used to after tears - simply because people say it is "bojalwa ba digarawe" but in contrast "bojalwa ba digarawe" is such a quite event. there is no noise and excessive celebration like the "after tears".
“quite” typo for “quiet”
"After tears party" is a [nation of] South Africa custom in which a party is held the same day after the internment. More information about "after tears parties" is provided in the Addendum section below.

Segololo Thursday, September 02, 2010 08:21 AM
"...A small sample of my "family" tradition with regards to funerals as I have no idea if this is a general way the Batswana or Basotho do it...

My family traditions are explicit about being respectful to the deceased that life stops for the 3 days or so required for the burial. In my family/tradition, as soon as someone passes, regardless of age - your life ceases to exist until the funeral. So within a week or less the funeral takes place; those who can make it come, those who cannot due to being in other countries and the like are excused BUT EXPECTED to come pay their respects as soon as they can. That's it!

The 4 day breakdown is very similar to the Nigerian breakdown on the article except that after the funeral there is no after party, There is what is called "bojalwa ba digarawe" loosely translated "shovel alcohol". LOL!

The traditional beer is quitely served to the men who dug and closed up the grave. BUT some people that come to mourn with the family will have an after-tears celebration not in the family compound - very far because noise is considered disrespectful to the dead.

On the day after the funeral, the deceased clothes are taken out, washed in water with aloe leaves and distributed to the family. The immediate family (parents, wife, husband, children, brothers and sisters) will have to cut their hair or a piece of it and get washed in water with aloe leaves as cleansing of the death.

A black cloth is bought as soon as the death is announced and each member of the immediate family is given a piece to wear on them (after the funeral) as a sign that they are in a period of mourning. The family elders will determine how long the period is however it ranges from a month to a year and a half.

During this period, those that have the cloth on them are not allowed to attend functions - weddings, parties, funerals except family, baptism, etc. They are not allowed to be out of their homes after sunset or before sunrise.

The wife or husband has to wear an all black outfit that they have to wash each evening and they are not allowed to have any romantic relations during this period.

On the set date, a cleansing ceremony is held and the family come together to celebrate the life of the deceased and burn all those pieces of black cloth and clothes worn by the widow/er. BUT the celebration is still not a party - silence is very important when it comes to death and traditions related to it. so the family gets together a church service is held and the family talks a lot and kind of gets close together - like a bonding session.

Reply from: Ruby Red Saturday, September 04, 2010 10:34 AM
"now to comment on your article @segs
this was well researched, and thank you for that. because tradition are one topic which are difficult to write about, esp in Africa given the diversity and complexity our our tribes and the assiciated ethnicty.

within one tribe, you will find several ethnic tribes, which are further subdivided by languages, location and influence of geography and demographics.

you will find tswana people in SA and those in Zim or Bots follow different traditions in burying their dead.

so for anyone to bash anyone based on their tradition and cultures really is both baseless and tasteless. we are supposed to be accomodating and understanding like you so ritely said."

“You are wondering what is the ”after tears party”! well let me enlighten you. In South Africa whenever there’s a funeral we have the whole community helping, so we have what we call society gathering and its done by men and women. Men have their own and so is women, they don”t mix unless its a family society . the procedure is, there will be meetings held and they collect money from each member and there ‘s a joining fee so they will meet once in a month, and it will be a sunday.

In case of a funeral among one of the members then the society is there to help the family with whatever they need, so for instance, during the week the women will help with the baking, organize big pots, the men will take care of making big fire place and a cooking spot. There society then hold a meeting to talk about how much they give to the bereaved family or they will buy grocery, a cow, organize tables and hire buses for the community.

The night before the funeral, there will be a night vigil, so there will church service, they slaughter the cow, women prepare the food for the funeral next day. Everything will be done by 5am , the society then leaves to go home and wash so they can attend the funeral and also the family to also prepare for the burial. The burial is normally done at 8 or 9 in the morning and after that everybody goes back home to the bereaved family for lunch, while that is happening the society then prepares for the after tears party. It will be done at the back opposite or next door neighbor’s house, music is prepared and change of clothes,from the formal to casual. We bring the cooler bags, call friends even if they didn’t attend the funeral or even know the person. The event will start small and by the evening its a party.

There’s nothing special about it really if we knew the person we will talk about him, have fun, others will say thank God he/she ‘s gone , its just an after tears party. Its not done by the youth only, the elders do it too but in a more subtle manner. I don’t know of any other country that does it but its a MZANSI’S culture meaning South African culture.”
I changed the formatting of this article to enhance its readibility.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
As I Reflect: After Tears parties: to have or not to have" by Phathu Musitha
"The party after the funeral provides attendants with an opportunity to catch up with old friends and family members who we see only at funerals and weddings. It’s also an excuse to drink…. Basically, it’s a social gathering with plenty of hugs accompanied with the cliché ‘long time, no chat’.
Mourning takes the backseat....

Generally speaking, people no longer observe customs as far as funerals are concerned. Not that I am advocating customs, not that I am not. The older generations mostly wore black to funerals, had a no-pants policy for women who were also prohibited from entering the burial site, should their heads not be covered. And you best believe they took these strict laws seriously. They were not funeral dressing guidelines, they were the ‘funeral dressing laws’. Men have more room to breathe, though to this day, in some cultures they are required to wear jerseys (or something akin to that). Though, as those who frequent funerals may have observed, nothing is set in stone. Nowadays there are exceptions with just about anything. It’s this thing they call freedom, neh?

After Tears parties are normally characterized by the presence of cases of alcohol and a beat to get down to...

Just like any other place which involves alcohol, it can get rather rowdy, causing attendants to forget the reason they gathered in the first instance.

A letter of the Kwazulu-Natal Christian Council dated October 2008 rightfully states that holding after tears parties is becoming customary after the burial. The Council goes on to say that not only is an after tears party an unnecessary expense but that it also disregards the family’s need to mourn."...
Click differing opinions about the efficacy of “after tears” custom [in South Africa]

RELATED LINK Colors Associated With Funerals In Ghana, West Africa

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      I hope that this results in some African people writing articles and comments about funeral practices and other customs in their countries.

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