Thursday, October 27, 2005

The journey to the graveside

Following the body viewing a few more prayers were said before Boipelo's body was carried to the funeral car. The hearse then led a convoy of perhaps 50 vehicles to the village cemetry. I was driving my 'bakkie'. I had about 20 people in it or hanging off it. It was expected tha tanyone with a vehicle would carry as many passengers as was physically possible. The elderly sat inside the vehicle or whilst the young clung to whichever part of the truck they could. I found it most un-nerving the first few times I carried so many passengers but I soon realised that no one ever fell off (and even if they had there didn't exist a culture of litigation!)

At the cemetry I noticed at least 2 other burials taking place. This was an unsurprising sight even in a relatively small village. Burials never always took place on Saturday in Botswana and there would always be many taking place at the same time. As we walked to the place where Boipelo's grave had been dug I couldn't help ntice the countless white crosses that stood mute in the ground. Each cross would have a name and a date on it. The vast majority of the crosses were for young people who had died in their late teens or early years of adulthood. It was quite rare to see the grave of an elderly person.

This is the legacy of HIV/AIDS. Parents and grandparents burying their children. And this was not just the case in this cemetry but all over Botswana ... and Zimbabwe... and Zambia... and South Africa ... in fact all over Sub-Saharan Africa. The implications of this is something I will return to in a later post.

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