The difference an ocean can make: Celebrating Mama Faithful in Ghana

By Kase Knochenhauer | 3/30/12 6:10pm

Mama Faithful had been in the freezer for three months. I attended her funeral after she was thawed. The brass band could be heard a mile off, they played with the power of Dizzy Gillespie. Maybe louder. The mariachi-influenced band started the parade at 5 p.m. and led the party for over an hour until it finally reached the funeral.

We clapped, sang, and moved in unity. Nothing could remind me more of the scene from, “We are the Titans.” The whole procession wore black and red, symbols of “African pride and danger.”

Upon arrival, the band blasted away for another two hours. They only knew two songs.

The funeral was festive and celebratory. A true celebration of life. The Ghanaians celebrated what the Lord had given them. And what he had taken away. “We must be thankful to Him who is above for everything that was given us. Everything, both the good and the bad. The good comes as a blessing and the bad a blessing. We must be thankful to Him.” I loved their faith and decided that dying in a trotro accident would not be so bad after all.

The profile of four slender dancers could be seen from the tent I was sitting in. They danced with inconsistent style. Leaning forward their arms swung loosely from side to side. They tapped triplets and offbeat with their feet raising the red dust towards the heavens. Their black outline was framed by the congregation dressed in white sitting behind them.

On the far side of the court was the congregational tent which consisted of those who were members of Mama Faithful’s Church. Their white gowns and hair ties were in stark contrast to their black skin and the dark night. They stood clapping, swaying, and singing in response to the voice of the pastor who started to speak.

They praised God for Mama Faithful. To the left side of the courtyard there was a slightly smaller tent meant as the entrance and staging area for the sound men and their giant speakers. I sat in a flimsy plastic chair located in the tent opposite the congregation clothed in white. The elders of Mama Faithful’s church and those who did not attend her church partially filled the tent. The right side of the courtyard had a tent for the deceased’s family as well as another covered tent in which they were preparing the body for burial while we celebrated.

It was 11 p.m. and the atmosphere was growing thick with excitement. We had been celebrating Mama Faithful for six hours. I was sleepy and hoped they might give the closing remarks soon. Trying to gauge my time, I asked my host when the next portion of the funeral would start. He leaned over and casually said, “Soon.” I was satisfied with that answer until I saw several individuals with large vats of tea balanced on their heads. They carried them to the middle of the tents.

I inquired why they were providing this. He laughed, “So we don’t get tired. The ceremony is not done until she is buried tomorrow afternoon.” They had no plans to sleep.

I left at 11:30 p.m. and celebrated with them while I slept.

See for more of Kase Knochenhauer’s Ghanaian adventures.

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