In America, funerals are generally a sad event that is a mix of saying farewell, crying, celebrating their life, and remembering the deceased. In South Africa, they are a major social event dedicated completely to celebrating the deceased’s life. No crying whatsoever!
Oddly enough, I went to my FIRST SA funeral this Saturday. It is highly unusual that I hadn’t been to one yet, as I think probably every other PCV had. But various events and circumstances (including me not liking funerals and not really wanting to go to one) meant I have lived in SA for more than 7 months without attending one. However, when my host momma asked if I would be in the village, then asked if I would go (well, told me I would) I had no reason to say no. So after the rain stopped on Saturday afternoon, host momma and I headed off to the funeral.
The house where it was held was probably a 20 minute walk away, next to the road leading out of my village. However, when we got near the shop I always go to, my host momma flagged down a bakke. Me, Moiki (host sister), and my host mom literally ran towards the bakke-I’m sure a fun thing to watch.
When we arrived, of course every eye was on me. I was quite proud that I was appropriately dressed-a long skirt, a black shirt and gray cardigan, and a hat. While dark colours are not mandatory, most people were wearing them, so I was glad I was. What is mandatory is something to cover your head (thus my hat) and my cardigan meant my shoulders were extra covered, which is extra respectful. Yay PST was good for something!
Anyways, after a bit of preaching (both in Setswana and in English-surprising!) and singing and dancing, we followed the van carrying the body out of the family’s yard and hopped into the bakke for the short ride to the graveyard. There, several tents were set up and the walkway was carpeted to the grave. I was too far back in the crowd to see what was happening, but I eventually realized that the men were literally burying the body as she sang and danced. I even knew some of the songs ka Setswana! We weren’t there for a long time, nor was it super hot, but near the end I got really light-headed and nearly fainted. So I told my host mom that I was going to sit down and wandered over to the carpet to sit on the ground. Even though a few other women were sitting too, I’m sure it was a spectacle for the lekgoa to sit on the ground. Oh well. After drinking a bit of water and resting, I felt well enough to get back up, right as everyone was preparing to leave.
We then got back in the bakke, went back to the house, and grabbed some food (the best part of any funeral/wedding/social event). They were serving samp, delicious beef, cole slaw, and beetroot. I got everything except the beetroot and chowed down. After I was done, a man in line asked for my dirty plate and spoon. Oh Afrika. 🙂
After we ate, my host mom and I headed home. Even though it was a funeral of a 30-something man, it was a rather fun event. I loved watching the pride and joy in my host mom’s face when she would introduce me or see me speak Setswana to the villagers, many of whom laughed in joy after hearing me. It is amazing how big a difference language can make! Batho ba rata gore legkoa ko Kudunkgwane le bue Setswana!