Funeral Characters And Issues

Funerals nowadays have taken a totally different dimension due to Covid protocols and the advent of technology. By technology, I don’t mean things like playing a transistor radio.

Technology nowadays is much more sinister than that. For instance it is not entirely farfetched for someone to whisper and ask you something like ‘What is the hashtag for this funeral?’

We are currently waddling through the fourth industrial revolution. Officially, that is. Some countries are already nudging the fifth industrial revolution though, but of course since this is an African country we are still stuck in the moat of the third industrial revolution.

Government and her ally COVID-19 has somewhat party-pooped funerals and relegated them to a gathering akin to that of people sharing a watermelon. Sharing a watermelon is a national habit like fathers chasing their children with a whip and it looks like this scene is now encroaching into funerals. I went to a funeral the previous week and something struck me. Despite all the changes, the characters in attendance have not changed one bit. Every single character that is found in a traditional Setswana funeral is still in attendance.


There’s the aunt who is always busier than the proverbial bee and is usually wearing a doek twisted to one side. Her standard attire is German print skirt, clogs or high-hooved shoes, a white t-shirt and the famous headscarf.

She’s the star of the funeral and wields more power than the local chief. One could almost see her on a poster advertising the funeral. Something like ‘Funeral on Saturday at 6am. Starring Miss Doek D. Twisted’.

The keys to the funeral stock is usually stuck somewhere on her bosom. Most people are petrified of her and usually engage in conversation with her only when they exchange greetings. Usually they are chosen carefully through a very thorough screening process that involves observing who has the longest sneer and whoever can out-talk everyone during an argument.

There’s also a lady who brings scones. At a funeral where standard confectionery is fat cakes, scones are like a Harvard graduate amongst Mafitlhakgosi PSLE graduates. Obviously her status is at par with the scones and she’s usually too busy with other more pressing matters away from the funeral. When she delivers the goodies they are usually in a Tupperware (another Harvard graduate in container world).

These are accompanied by a short lecture on How To Handle Tupperware: Dos and Donts. She will also warn of the consequences of losing the container  like a little veiled threat of her battering her way into the deceased person’s will. That is how humongous the value of Tupperware is.

The more petrified ones will usually throw the goodies in a metal dish and return the Tupperware immediately.

This is not always a good idea because you will expose the scones to ‘predators’ and before you know it there’d be nothing left for the pastors, widows and relatives from South Africa. Should this happen there will be a family meeting after the funeral to discuss and reprimand the cooks.

I wonder what the role of the uncle who is supposed to receive beasts after they had been slaughtered is, now that there is a ban on this. This uncle is easy to spot whether a beast has been slaughtered or not. He’s usually surrounded by a posse of yes men and usually leads the conversation around the fire. The hangers-on will hang on to every word no matter how silly and ridiculous his stories are. Lord help us they have not worked in the mines in South Africa.

Those have the most incredible stories. And those will register very high readings on the idiocymeter. The idiocymeter is a sixth industrial revolution contraption which is meant to measure whether one should be outside without parental supervision or in a psychiatric institution. Hopefully, they won’t carry this idiocy beyond the Pearly Gates. Imagine being an idiot in heaven! 

One time at a relative’s funeral this species narrated a story about a mine colleague who was so good at dancing he could stay five minutes in the air just dancing away. My quip about the effects of gravity were dismissed with a cursory ‘He doesn’t know anything about gravity so he just stays on air for five minutes dancing’. The hangers-on looked like they were about to lynch me and gave me this get-out-of-here-wise-guy look.

So, yes we do have a bit of evolution but the feeling that the more things change the more they stay the same lingers on like an unwelcome guest at a dinner table. 

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