Ghanian Funerals

Context: The informant’s grandmother passed away and so the informant and their family went back to Ghana for her funeral and celebration of life.


Collector: “Do you happen to have any other traditional ceremonies or celebrations that you do?”

Informant: “So my grandma passed away and there was a certain way we did everything. So the first thing was that when we got there, where she used to stay, they had like a celebration of life for her. So i don’t know the days and order but one day you go to the church and like you view her and they have people speak, her children, her grandchildren, like you know how [American] funerals normally go. But like the second part is the celebration of life part where as the grandchildren we have to wear black and white and we all had to wear kente cloth that was black and white and we all have to wear the same pattern. Her children also had to wear just all white or black but they had to wear the same pattern. So, we were all uniform but a little different between the children and the grandchildren, and then usually, if they go back home, they invite the chief of that area. My grandma was really known in her community so they brought the chief that was kind of in the area where they lived and they came and everybody was speaking about their memories of her and stuff like that. Then it’s like we had a celebration of life for her; we played music and her favorite songs kind of like remembering her because it was something very sad and devastating that happened to everyone, but, and I guess it’s a part of the culture that I am familiar with, she didn’t want us to be sad and mourning; she would want us to be celebrating her life and that she lived a great life. And then there’s a separate day where we went to the house and this was before so they come to the house, kind of like the wedding, but they also bring gifts but these gifts are ones that are going to be used when they bury her so like the cloth that she wore. Since she was back home, the chief’s wife had like a tiara or crown so like royalty, certain colors that she liked, jewelry, so certain gifts that would be brought to bury her with and then people would go around and talk about it and what they remember about her and we had to wear black that day. What’s also common in both of them is that we always get white hankercheifs and then depending on the song everyone forms a circle and you dance as you mvoe around the circle and you wave the white handkerchief.”


I think this example of a traditional Ghanian funeral ceremony reveals two things: (1) how Ghanas view death and life more positively and (2) that community and family are really important and that community is family in itself. For the first point, I think that since there was two separate days, one for mourning and the other for celebrating, it goes to show that they are less fearful of death and more accepting of it as opposed to an American funeral where it’s a dark and sad event. Ghanaians want to celebrate the life of those who passed and the legacy the left behind and the lives they have touched. The celebration happens because even though people are sad that they are gone it was a gone and prosperous life that was lived and one that should be celebrated and embraced. For the second point, the inclusion of the community and having them bring gifts for the person to be buried in shows how important it must be to be involved with your community in Ghana. The informant’s grandmother was very active in the community and well connected with many in that when she died, the whole community came out to celebrate her and then also support the family. In this way, the community is family.