Dashiki Dialogues: When death is holier than life

2012-05-11 08:23

So, two high-profile citizens are buried this week and suddenly there’s much talk of death on everybody’s lips.

The deaths of Sicelo Shiceka, the former minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, and Roy Padayachie, the public service and administration minister, took many conversations beyond whether they were good at their jobs. Themes ranging from the financial cost of funerals, the meaning of death itself and even the nature of the afterlife were dominant.

It figures, because the elaborate rites and cultural rituals that accompanied the funerals should have highlighted our collective fixation with mortality.

Especially interesting is how these customs around death reflect our culture’s concern with life and resilient ways of being alive on earth.

An old friend likes to say that a life well lived is that which finds an admirable path to a beautiful death. Just as those who honour their duties in life go on to become revered ancestors, others believe a pious life will pave their way to heaven or paradise.

I get thrown off centre by what appears to be an unbalanced bias focused on death over life. Put differently, I’m irked when we seem to prepare better for death than we do for life.

I grew up in a community where every block seemed to have a burial society of its own. This meant every month, people’s fathers, uncles, aunts and mothers gathered with their neighbours to make a financial contribution into a savings account of sorts.

Everyone understood that this money was to help people have a dignified funeral. These were communities that generally could not afford higher education tuition fees, medical aid for the elderly and had hungry child-headed families among them.

Since there appeared to be no similar monthly gatherings to collect money and galvanise community agency around these issues, it’s fair to assume they were not seen as important as funerals.

Not even banking institutions would call you with offers of solutions to these financial challenges. But I bet they’d offered you a funeral plan at some point.
Most of our collective agency is spent on projecting a dignified burial than respectable lives.
It’s like the famous adage goes: “In the event of my demise give everything I prize to the poor, and to the oppressors I leave the war.”
The implied dialogue is that we ought to take pride in the dashikis we wear through life than the
fanfare that marks our death.
» ?Follow me on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu 

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