Death is inevitable. We, however, never get used to it.
Perhaps in an effort to make sense of the grim reaper, Kenyan communities have elaborate ceremonies performed to accord respect to departed loved ones.
These death rituals are so important, that it is claimed that failing to observe them could lead to serious consequences for the living.
To the eyes of the uninitiated, some of these elaborate death and funeral ceremonies may seem absurd. But for Africans, death is just the final rite of passage. As such, when a person is dead, they still remain around in one form or the other.
1 The Maasai
When an aged and respected person dies, the Maasai of Kenya slaughter a special, unblemished bull in his/her honor.
Fat is extracted from the bull, and then smeared on the deceased’s person body before burial.
The deceased’s first born son is the one who smears the fat on his dead parent.
The Maasai also believe that once the spirit departs the body, the latter is no longer useful. As such, they do not bury their dead, but leave them out in the open for animals to feast on.
2 The Luhya
When a member of the Luhya community of Kenya dies, their body is taken from the mortuary a few days before burial.
It is the placed in an open casket at home, so that the living can view the dead body and “interact” with it.
The dead body must also face a certain direction, be dressed in specific clothes, and the clothes must be of a particular color.
3 The Luo
Luos will scream out their lungs as they head towards the dead person’s homestead.
Some mourners will even tear out their hair and clothes in a show of sorrow and anguish.
There are claims that some will even put themselves forward to be hired as “professional mourners.” This is due to the community’s belief that if the dead feel that they were not adequately mourned, they will come back to haunt the living.
Among theLuos, when a husband dies, it is expected that his widow will sit next to his lifeless body until it is buried. While keeping the body company, the women is expected to cry and quip rhetorical questions at her dead husband such as Why did you die?