Thursday, May 24, 2007

Death in Kenya

Common sights in Kenyan cities are roadside tombstone sellers. I finally got around to taking a few photos.

Death is a sensitive subject here. (Actually, where is it not that?) But death is treated differently here than in North America. I once sent out an email to my staff telling them to leave the passwords to their computers with a trusted colleague. I said something like, "In case you die, we need to access your work data." This did NOT go over well.

In contrast, grieving a death can be much more open here. In about 1992, I made a photography expedition to Mfangano Island, in Lake Victoria. As we walked around the island, I heard loud wailing - for more than an hour. Someone had died the night before. This grieving was much more open than it would be in North America. (How much more healthy it is to get the tears out, rather than bottle them up inside!)


Jenny said...

Yes. We don't often acknowledge death enough in the Western world. I found this to be true when our first son died. Most people found it hard to talk about.

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Jayanthi said...

You're right! As an American who lived in India for two years, I found the same to be true there. THere are various traditions and superstitions- for instance traditional people don't mingle with others outside the nuclear family for up to a month and no happy or big holidays/events (ie weddings) are celebrated. This gives people time to grieve. The way I see it too, is that separating from others has it's problems but the good thing about it, is you can be with your family, use this time to get out your feelings and memories, rather than stuff them inside. Also a funeral procession in a village in south India was loud as you described- a body being carried in the open on a bamboo stretcher, but people were singing- beating drums and taking the body to the funeral pyre.

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