A 97-year-old lady named Azana from a neighbouring village passed away last month. Her family spent the month organizing her funeral while her body lay at the morgue (this time line is common). Thursday through Sunday (sometimes longer) her close family and friends gathered at the family house to visit, share food and drink, mourn and eventually dance and sing. The official service started Saturday at 10am; friends and family members congregated around the family’s house to greet each other, bid farewell to the deceased, grieve her death and celebrate her life’s accomplishments.
Her body was decorated with a beautiful dress and was put to sit upright under a special dwelling where she was fanned to keep cool. After a service of singing, dancing and praying, she was placed into her casket. Each casket in Ghana is completely unique to the person who has passed. This particular woman was a cocoa bean farmer; her casket was in the shape of a cocoa pod. Once she was placed into her pod, she was carried to the cemetery and buried. Several hours later, the family returned to the family house, where a party of drumming and the Agbadza dance began.
Welcomed to each funeral is a troop of local dancers and drummers. When a one of the troop member’s family members pass, the whole troop will attend the funeral and commence the celebratory part of the funeral. The local dance(common to the Southern Volta regions) is referred to as the Agbadza dance (there are different dances for different occasions). Drummers play an intense beat while the woman sing and dance. While this happens, others eventually join in. All the while, a family member circulates the crowd with a container of fermented beverages of maize and coconut water.
Unfortunately, my first funeral coincided with my first bout of food poisoning. Thus, I was in the mood to partake in the local beverages. I did however pull it together enough to attempt (with a lot of encouragement from the locals- apparently I stand out) the Agbadza dance. Rest in Peace Azana.