Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The stresses and strains of grave site selection

In Zanaki tradition if no word is left to indicate where someone wants to be buried then the selection of a grave site sometimes will pit the deceased's family in a battle of where the burial should take place.

In a recent funeral, word had reached Butiama that the grave for a relative who had died in Mwanza should be dug at his parent's home in anticipation of the funeral several days later. He was married twice and had a business in Mwanza region.

As work commenced on digging the grave a phone call from his close family pointed out that the digging should be suspended until the body arrived in Butiama because there was an unsettled debate on where the deceased should be buried. The current wife wanted him buried on his property in Butiama while his former wife was said to have wanted him to be buried in Mwanza, where she lived.

An uncle in Butiama said he saw no reason why the deceased should not be buried next to the grave of his father, instead of burying him in a municipal grave in Mwanza. The tradition of burying family members in the grounds of the family's home is still practiced among the Zanaki. Burying a family member in a municipal cemetery would appear like abandoning him and denies surviving members the practice of frequently visiting a grave to communicate with those who have gone before.

Eventually the uncle's decision was decisive and the deceased was buried at the same site that was initially pointed out. Which prompted me to ask: "Shouldn't the wife have a say in where her husband should be buried?" An elder told me that the wife becomes part of the husband's family and the decision made by the uncle, representing the father of the deceased in this case, is paramount.

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