Saturday, 29 November 2014

7.10.14 Burials

Emmanuel had bad news for us!  He told us that they suspected someone had died of Ebola in Kasese and that 11 people were in direct contact with him and that there were over a hundred others that they might been in contact with – this was grave news indeed and a bit scary to say the least.
David said burials used to go back to the Congo, as this was the homeland of the Bakonjo.  Carrying the body back they use one stick to tie the body on to it, head in the direction of going. Originally they had shallow graves 1) because they had no tools only a hoe and 2) the stones were hard to dig. After this the house would be burnt down but the body would remain at this location.  Later it would be a small hole, then a rectangular hole, and later on the hole would be deeper the more important the person was.  The person would be bent double and would bend the leg and arm joints before they became stiff.  If a suicide, the whole village would leave after the funeral. The people are buried on one arm now, on their left side, legs facing the Congo.  If sick, they carry the person with two sticks and leads with the legs, but if dead leads with the head.

They shave the head, now they bury the body in the ground with bricks on top and cement in a rectangular slab.  At burial time they remove a small amount of hair belonging to the family of the dead person, in the middle of the head, then drumming commences at night to let people know that someone has died, usually three beats repeated – then people come and pay their respects, bring money/food after several days of burial.  Only the clan members and close family come together initially and all cut their hair (this is the second cutting of hair).  If the dead person has plaited hair they cut it off as they think the ancestors may reject them, as they wouldn’t recognise them unless they had normal hair.

Bad luck, and superstition still exists, at the same time as wanting to be modern.  David is Penticostal.

Tour of the foundry methods and materials.  They use 50% beeswax and 50% paraffin wax (brown) for investing to a layer of no less than 2 ml.  They use river sand and fine brick dust as grog for detail on the first layer of investing.  They use surgical spirit for degreasing the wax before the first layer of investment goes on. They use 2 parts plaster, 1 terracotta and 1 part riversand for the first layer. Then the back up use Ludo as well as plaster and use hessian sacking as reinforcement, but sometimes chickenwire.  Riversand is used as it has an inherent flexibility.  The local bricks are 50% earth and 50% baked clay.  To put into the kiln to loose the wax they run it for about 22-26 hours or a bigger mould up to 36 hours or until they stop flaming.  Temperature is 700 degrees C max or 500-600 C.

The furnace is lined with baked clay and on the inside of the lid (not the ceramic heat proof material).  The bronze takes about 2 & a half hours to melt for a mould approx. 150 kg. and with the smaller crucible 1 & a half hours to melt for a mould approx. 70 kg.

During this tour I talked informally to David and Emmanuel about rites of passage – mainly death rituals as mentioned previously.

In the afternoon we were invited to a funeral of an old man in his 70’s who died of cancer – there were a good many people of all ages in attendance with lengthy speeches about how he believed in Jesus Christ and how he looked after his family and how the children who were his legacy should carry on doing good so that his friends would stay their friends.  Two preachers were very evangelical, so what started like Karaoke ended like a racehorse commentary between the two men who were dressed in suits.  There was the main priest who was wearing steel caps under his robes and at least three other priests in their robes.  The peaked white tents were forming a horseshoe rectangular shape with the green tent in the middle with an elaborate coffin, heavily lacquered in it, where closed family stood.  A book came round for comments to be made.  The grave had tiles up the walls and on the floor, 6ft under, on which they put the coffin. I noted before that the lid was lifted for people in the green tent to see (or do something) towards the end of all the speeches.

It was said that he was a good man as it/he had brought the rain, so this was considered lucky.  People threw flowers from the bouquets into the grave – then we went.  A gift of £5 was made to the family to help with funeral costs, as l assume others did too.

We had to be careful of Ebola and touching people – this got more difficult jostling towards the actual grave.  Several women were supported away in tears and crying out loud, along with the children too.
The party is going to carry on tonight by the sounds with drumming – that is obviously what was happening last night and the dogs were barking a lot with people passing near to the house.

Saw the gallery with David and saw some of his work – traditional figures carrying babies, maize and a child with a hoop.  Another depicted an old man carrying a log and another woman.  David said that a grave now would have a tree ring on it using the tree in the courtyard (Muramura).

Talked bout my idea of burying a yam and the concept of turning an ephemeral object into a permanent object and then burying it in the ground – making it a symbol to prolong the fertility of the soil and make a tree on the top – depending on casting.  David liked this idea.

Talking about respondents with David he mentioned medicine (herbalist) men who boil up herbs for curs, the witch doctors use tricks eg. swinging a basket over & over their arm into some water and then the basket with water is placed on the ground and twigs are snapped and placed on the water – this is when the client can be told that this grandfather told him to do something eg. bring eggs, a white goat, etc, to cure the thing the client has.  Another trick is to distract the client with a horn put to the arm, having first cut the skin with razors.  This horn has a hole in the tip and the witch doctor sucks on the horn, which brings the skin up and then he throws a bone out as if this was the cause of his ailment.  We might visit the storyteller and some of the elders and clan head.

Saw a mousebird today and some grey dove-like birds which l cannot see in the book.

Tonight David, Emmanuel, Winnie, Perlucy and Eria had supper together and had a leg of goat, which was lovely.  We chatted about burials – E said about inheriting the wife after death, was dying out a bit due to AIDS. He also told us about marriage partnership and that the father of the son had to choose the first wife for his son but also tried her out!  A lot of problems with father’s going off with the son’s wives apparently!!

They often lift the lid of the coffin to make sure the person is actually dead and not alive as there have been many cases where someone has just been unconscious!  A goat is often brought by a close relative to a funeral as a gift for the dead – maybe a father-in-law.

When a brother is referred to it does not necessarily mean a direct brother but could be someone with the same clan eg. when David dies his nephew should do all the burial rituals eg. planting the trees, etc. and tend to it, as, if a ‘weed’ tree grows up in the middle his nephew alone would have to cut it down.  However, this does not necessarily mean his direct nephew but someone within the clan of similar relationship and age.

From what was said this a.m. it seems that all the tribes in Uganda were one, except for three main groups of people, Bantu, Hamites and Luos. Then they all fractured into separate tribes but still there seems to be quite a few similarities according to them.

Found a snake skin on the floor of the sitting room tonight – was careful!

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