Costly black cul­ture of ex­trav­a­gant fu­ner­als must change

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

BLACK fu­ner­als are be­com­ing more ex­pen­sive and ex­trav­a­gant with the years. I hon­estly think we should in­ter­ro­gate how we have been han­dling fu­ner­als in the black com­mu­ni­ties.

I at­tended a fu­neral in the North West prov­ince that gave me hope that it was pos­si­ble to spend just enough for a fu­neral and the de­ceased will rest in last­ing peace. At this par­tic­u­lar fu­neral, we were served samp, tshotlho (beef), a veg­gie and a salad with a glass of juice.

That was it. Trust me, I was hap­pily sur­prised. I thought to my­self, this means it is pos­si­ble. We are here to pay our last re­spects, to sup­port those who lost their loved one and not to have a buf­fet or at­tend a food fes­ti­val where food is the main fo­cus of the day.

When I was in my early teens I vowed not to spend a lot of money on a fu­neral.

Even though fam­ily and my mom’s friends thought I was just be­ing a child and I would grow up to “un­der­stand things bet­ter”, lit­tle did they know that as an adult to­day, I am more con­vinced now that I am not go­ing to have an ex­trav­a­gant burial for any of my loved ones.

Over the years, from bury­ing my grandpa when I was 11, to bury­ing my grandma when I was 22, I saw the fam­ily buy­ing so much food. I wished the food was for us to keep for the whole year.

Poverty had a room in our house. I couldn’t fathom how we would set­tle to por­tray our­selves as peo­ple who can af­ford for just one day to please peo­ple, and face hav­ing no food for days.

The un­cles and the aunts would say “peo­ple have to eat, we have to bury our dad and mom with dig­nity. Ev­ery­thing has to be on-point”. They say “we need to hon­our your grandpa or grandma. We must give them a dig­ni­fied burial”.

We want to look ex­pen­sive, we want to be seen and ap­pre­ci­ated and talked about way af­ter the fu­neral by at­ten­dees.

Why should ev­ery­thing be on-point when we are mourn­ing our loved ones? We are griev­ing and ev­ery­one can ex­cuse us, hon­estly.

Why should we hire an ex­pen­sive caterer or cook seven colours?We are still suf­fer­ing from the “batho ba tlo reng?” syn­drome (what are peo­ple go­ing to say?). It is a fu­neral not a party or wed­ding cel­e­bra­tion that we plan for.

Yes, we should have some re­fresh­ments. It does not have to be a buf­fet though. This cul­ture of spend­ing a lot of money on fu­ner­als has to change.

Death is re­ally not some­thing we plan for, but we wouldn’t have to take fu­neral cov­ers that take more than R400 from us ev­ery month if we could change this cul­ture or tra­di­tion of buf­fets at fu­ner­als. Th­ese fu­neral cov­ers are our way of pre­par­ing for th­ese un­known days.

But imag­ine if the cost of the cas­ket was not such a big deal. Imag­ine if what we wore on the day of the burial was not a wor­ry­ing mat­ter, en­vis­age a black com­mu­nity that redi­rected those R400s to ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies or other forms of in­vest­ments. Fu­ner­als do not have to cost an arm and a leg.

What­ever is pre­pared for the un­known num­ber of peo­ple at­tend­ing the fu­neral should be ap­pre­ci­ated, it be sand­wiches or pap and chicken.

I can al­ready hear some­one say­ing; “that is not our cul­ture”. Is our cul­ture one that teaches us to ap­pre­ci­ate peo­ple only when they are dead and can­not see it? It gets worse.

Then there is the drink­ing spree that takes place af­ter the fu­neral. Per­son­ally, I find it very dis­taste­ful that we bury a loved one and then buy lots of booze in the name of “af­ter tears” – many call it the “Wie sien ons”.

The other thing is, the ex­ter­nal fam­i­lies of aunts and un­cles ar­rive at home for “prepa­ra­tions” a week be­fore the fu­neral and leave a week af­ter the burial. For two weeks, the fam­ily has to feed six to eight ex­tra mouths. It is ab­surd. Let us change how we han­dle fu­ner­als.

It has be­come un­nec­es­sar­ily costly.

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