Monday, October 17, 2005

The Funeral House

Over the next few days the girls from the Salon continued to be busy with organising Boipelo's burial. As I had generally finshed lecturing by midday or early afternoon I was able to assist in transporting food, furniture, fire wood and people to Boipelo's home. Boipelo's colleagues and clients collected a substantial sum of money in order to buy many of the essentials for the funeral.

When I talk of the 'funeral' and the 'burial' I am refering to two overlapping but seperate things. The funeral in Botswana refers to the whole period of mourning that comes with someone's death. From the time someone passes away friends and family will gather at the 'funeral house' in order to support each other in a time of sorrow. This period of time does not end with the burial of the deceased either. The 'late' are mourned for a period of time that is partly dependant upon their age. The more elderly the deceased is then the longer period of time they are mourned. I was quite surprised at first to learn that infants are not mourned for nearly as long a period as the elderly. I am informed that this is because they have died in innocent and thus will be received instantly by God upon their death.

As the 'funeral' lasts for at least a few weeks it is an incredibly costly time for many families. All those who visit a 'funeral house' will expect to be fed. This is the case as, especially before the burial, many mourners will stay overnight at the funeral house in order to pray with and support the immeadiate family of the deceased.

The 'burial itself is also a costly business. A family does not only have to cover the costs of the morgue, coffin and undertaker but also is expected to feed all the mourners who have attended the burial. These numbers are often large as a whole village will attend a burial. In the past when funerals were much less frequent this did not cause families such financial burden but in these times of HIV/AIDS the whole process of the funeral and burial can causea massive financial burden for the family.

Boipelo's family were particually poor and thus the financial support provided by her workmates and especially her boss, Audrey, were invaluable.

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