Coffee shops, restaurants and a children’s play area are not usually surrounded by tombstones. But Pietermaritzburg will soon be home to such an establishment, with a new private burial park in Ashburton that seeks to create a more “liveable” space for those visiting the dead. The Nemesia Memorial Garden, officially launched on Wednesday last week, will eventually become a 10-hectare graveyard complete with a crematorium and a memorial garden. Phase one of the project has been completed, and about three hectares of the plot is available to bury the dead. The plot can hold between 500 to 600 graves. It will have a range of restaurants, coffee shops and garden spaces for the loved ones of the dead to relax and reminisce. Managing director of Nemesia, Lulama Makhaye, told The Witness the undertaking has been about a year in the making. “When we came up with this idea, it was more of us thinking: do we really want to be buried at a regular cemetery? So the idea came from that — making a space that we can turn into a liveable space. “It has become difficult for people [in Pietermaritzburg] to have a place where they can bury their loved ones in a safe, tranquil place.”She said their vision was to create a place where it was “pleasurable to go and visit the deceased.”“We want to have restaurants and some kind of coffee shop where people can break away from the cemetery and enjoy being in the space. We also want to have a memorial garden.” She said the area designated to bury children will have a children’s play area. “People think [these additions make for] the opposite of a cemetery, but we want to create something different, something more interactive, something to celebrate life.“I feel like most cemeteries are more of a dump site for corpses,” she said.Makhaye said in future they hope the cemetery will be able to entertain any burial ideas brought to them. They are at the moment, however, unable to do so because of the rules of burial consent given to them by the Department of Environmental Affairs. Makhaye believes the public will buy into the idea. “Funeral parlours we have spoken to like our idea, and were even speaking of people they would like to recommend our burial site to. “It’s also about preference. Some people would like to visit [the dead]... and if the space is not friendly for you and only suitable for someone who has passed on, then that [visiting] becomes difficult.”She added: “Some don’t know that a place like this could exist, so when it does exist it will open their eyes and they may become interested.”The Witness has reported on several problems at the Mountain Rise cemetery over the years.Last month, it was reported that a man and his 69-year-old mother were robbed at knifepoint while praying at a loved one’s grave. Last year, the headstone of a 23-year-old woman’s grave was severely damaged, apparently by a burst water pipe. In 2015, the public had to delay cremating the dead after a cremator had broken down, leaving only one operational.