Thursday, October 20, 2005

The overnight vigil

The night before the burial a group of us drove from Francistown to Boipelo's home village. We arrived at Boipelo's home at around 11pm and found a prayer vigil in progress. The prayer vigil was primarily attended by the more elderly members of Boipelo's family and their friends from the village. Seats had been laid out in the yard to accommodate mourners. I recognised the chairs as the one's I had transported from Unique only a few days previously. The majority of those at prayer were elderly women. The men sat not far away around a large fire; sitting under the clear night sky under the moon and stars. The men didn't talk much. Mostly they starred into the fire with only their thoughts for company. It was common at any funeral to see the men and women sat separately. Whenever Betty and I attended a funeral we immediately separated. - Betty joining the women inside the funeral house whilst I joined the men around the fire.
Outside the compound their were many younger people hanging around next to where the mourners had parked their cars. A group of guys were at drinking a few beers and chatting using the back of one of the 'bakkies' as a bar. It struck me that the younger Batswana did not participate in the traditional funeral practices as much as their parents and grandparents but still considered it important to be at the funeral house the night before the burial to pay their respects to their departed friend who lay at peace inside her family home.
After greeting Boipelo's parents and the elders of the family I took my leave and joined some of the guys outside the compound. It seemed irreverent to drink alcohol in the eyesight of those at prayer but no one around the cars appeared to be too concerned. Betty briefly joined those at prayer before also joining me outside the compound. Gradually over the next few hours more people arrived at the funeral house. The staff and several clients of the Salon arrived and soon joined us in a beer or two. 'It's what Boipelo would have wanted!' That amused me as I knew that back in England people would say exactly the same thing!
After chatting and passing the time for a few hours the younger crowd began to wane and we all took the chance to rest our eyes in our cars for a short time before the burial service would begin.

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