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Feature: Extravangant funerals in Upper East Region impoverishing families and depleting resources

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It would not only be prudent, realistic, wise and intelligent but also, common sense to take a halt to observe and assess deeply, the manner in which various funeral rites are performed in the Upper East Region, especially the Bolgatanga area. So long as human procreation is concerned; through giving birth, there will always be death, and funeral performance will follow without an end.

Customs and belief systems must be applied in the performance of funeral rites, because it is a customary rite to appease the spirit of the dead, and this has been practised from the onset of human creation. This notwithstanding, the activity is so important to cleanse the hurt souls, because it is a belief, and also creating peace and reuniting members of the bereaved family to continue life without much reflection of the deceased.

Besides, is it morally and humanly upright and sensible to care much about the dead without thinking of those living? The worry is that in both Christian and Traditional religions, performing funeral rites seem to have become expensive.

Actually, there is a lot of waste of resources, human time and materials when it comes to funeral performances in both religions. The extra cost of serving food, mainly rice and meat (in take-away packs) and beer are added thereby turning a funeral home into a place for enjoyment.

An elderly person from a typical traditional home would see this monetized practice as an increment of a burden and pain of the deceased family, and could likely cause food shortage in that family.

Left alone, Christianity shouldn’t accept this because the religion came purposely to spread the Gospel and also help the needy, and not to spend irresponsibly. Apart from feasts, Christians do not spend on things without economic values, social (human relation) and spiritual importance. Yet, today some Christians and traditional funerals are a source of activities that intend to weaken economic strength and growth due to new practices and high costs of the practices in the region.

Indeed, funeral performances in the region have caused an escalation in the prices of commodities in various markets in the region. For example, the prices of items like, beans, rice, millet, guinea corn, bambara beans, smallruminants, and guinea fowls go high during the funeral seasons.
Poor people cannot afford to buy these products for food and yet talk about buying them for funerals. This unbearable situation has even made poor homes despair of reviving many unperformed funerals to clear them out of their minds. Yet, fresh deaths are ongoing, adding to the costs.

Funeral performances across the region which usually start after Christmas and New-Year celebrations, (stretching from February to the end of May/June), bring a high cost of living for families.

The truth is that people sometimes attack the government, accusing it when they are facing economic hardships. But, the very people do not often consider rectifying their flaws that may be realized to be contributing factors to their economic crisis. For the actual fact, there is no relevant knowledge on attitudes and behaviour which is adopted towards this “Fashion”, of performing expensive funerals today.

Once death is inevitable, the funeral rites will also continue to be with us. As a result, if one cannot do without the other in human life, then, there would be no sense in spending heavily on the dead at the expense of the economic development of the living ones. Also, if some people turn to spend heavily on funeral performance because they are successful, instead of assisting the needy, that could be a myopic mind of doing things. But, if the economic development is seen as significant to the people in the region, the ignorant can be corrected in a way that they will all put up with.

The issue is that a dead person cannot feel the impact and be pleased no matter how costly the funeral is performed. Even so, the dead person in question did not get the necessary care during his or her lifetime, yet the very family turned to make a befitting and great funeral.

To be real to human situations, the welfare of the people comes from economic growth and development. It cannot be argued that there are big-time businesses in the region, apart from farming. Whether there is a glut in production or not, farmers depend on their farm commodities till the rainy season starts, and when they spend a lot on funerals, it will definitely affect the living. Here is the case that the capital resources are mismanaged thereby worsening the economy. Frankly, most funeral performances in the Upper East Region, whether Christian or traditional, affect the economic life of most people. For instance, the so-called son in-laws always carry heavy burdens when there is a funeral in the wife’s house.

It is assumed and well noted that his contribution becomes compulsory and every arrangement to go there must be done properly to satisfy the parent in-laws. If the man’s preparation is insufficient, he may carry a bad name back home. So, the funerals affect most people because they go through brutal performance in most homes in the entire region. After using or pouring a heavy part of their resources to perform funerals, the people come out to complain how hard the system is.

Many homes do experience famine because they do not have enough foodstuff left to sustain life. Unfortunately, the majority of the people in various communities do not have jobs to earn anything. Owing to poverty and the high costs involved in making funerals, unperformed funerals for years are there in many houses and the present ones might add up to make a heap or piling up. What a headache on people! But, sometimes people do not try to identify and analyze human developmental problems and correct them if possible to improve lives. There seems to be no ideal purpose for wasting resources on funeral performance to receive public praises when orphans, widows, sick, students, the vulnerable, need everyone’s attention. “Facts are facts but they are only painful”, in the southern part of Ghana, when there is a funeral, the bereaved family always get financial and material support and this token would always be of good substance to be used in taking care of the needy members of the deceased. Ironically, the contributions and support for funeral performance in the Upper East Region is always low and meager, but what is always prepared in return for the guest is probably often thrice of what is received.

Besides, the eating and drinking as enjoyment is always too expensive. So, are the funeral makers losing or developing? What benefits are gained for indebting oneself for a funeral? What impact does this attitude of wasting much resources on the dead has on the economic life of the very family and the region at large? Sure, it all stirs up a high standard of living in the region. Therefore, compelling most people to wail and wallow within themselves. It cannot be left out that, individual’s family could perform a funeral to suit their ability, but the fear is public criticism.

In a pragmatic view, it is hard and difficult to do that because other families managed to carry on a big time funeral performance and this has influenced the rest to demand or wish to do it better in order to escape ‘shame’ and public yells.

Now, for every individual family to carry their problems as stated, “God for us, each for himself”, everything is turned to be a challenge. Every home wants to perform a funeral that will be praised by the public. In view of this, some other families go through serious struggle to do the same at the expense of their economic situations and this is never a good practice and behaviour in funeral performance. The high cost for performing funerals is indirectly punishing the economy and directly causing sufferings to mankind. In an extreme issue, with regards to customary values and practices in funeral performances, items such as; millet, guinea corn (flour water, pito and Tz), beans (koose), Bambara beans, Akpetashie (norm) and may be animal etc. The extra items and cost added may be; beer, water (voltics), rice and meat (serving take-away packages). Are some of these items listed above necessary? Have the people of the region not suffered enough economically? If you believe, even a paltry amount of resources can be used to appease the dead.

In conclusion, a funeral home is a place to mourn and learn wisdom. It is not a place of feast and enjoyment but rather a place to give support and glorify God to accept the soul to rest in peace. If that is true, then rulers, stakeholders, chiefs, elders, tindaanas and priests, should rethink how funeral performance affects the economic development of the people and maybe initiate some stalwart rules to limit or control the invaluable additional in funeral performance in the region. There should be a fine way of managing guests of the funeral to appreciate and not to make a cost in return.

However, “Time and Days”, management at funeral homes is very poor. Owing to misuses and sometimes, deliberate time-wasting for burials and “Consultations”, from other elders, are part of the principal costs and increment of some social vices (teenage pregnancies & robbery attacks), adding to funeral performance in Upper East region. There must be some considerable ideas, favourable and friendly to both religions, making it easy for every poor home to be able to perform their funeral rites.

Source: Ndaa A. Buzia, Lungo – Bongo (0540135692)           

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