Wednesday,August 05,2020 13:38 PM

Tororo’s endless vigils

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th November 2003 03:00 AM

It is just after 7 pm and a group of old women, cigarettes held firmly in the corner of their mouths, nonchalantly make their way down to the funeral home

It is just after 7 pm and a group of old women, cigarettes held firmly in the corner of their mouths, nonchalantly make their way down to the funeral home

By Jackson Oboth

It is just after 7 pm and a group of old women, cigarettes held firmly in the corner of their mouths, nonchalantly make their way down to the funeral home.

Bundles of dry banana leaves on their heads and blankets held tightly under their arms. They talk in hushed voices, their conversation supplemented with occasional spitting out of the bitter taste of tobacco.

Tragedy had befallen the village a week ago when 35-year-old Ochieng died in Kampala and his body was transported back home for burial. Although the burial took place four days ago, 65-year-old Marita and her neighbours still go down to the funeral home to spend the night and register their solidarity with the bereaved family.

At the Late Ochieng’s home, nine kilometers west of Tororo town, two muscular men, their chests shimmering with sweat, are mingling kwon-kal (millet bread) to be served with dry fish stew to mourners. Villagers begin to arrive in groups. Young men, girls and old women converse loudly, with occasional shrieks of laughter piercing through the fast approaching darkness.

After the food has found its way down the hungry guts, the mourners begin to shift attention to the sound of the long drum, being played at the furthest corner of the compound. Old men nod their heads and tap their feet at the sound of the drum as they sip malwa (millet brew) from a large pot near the bon-fire.

A group of young energetic dancers take to the floor and display some fine dancing moves. And the mourning will go on up to the wee hours of the morning before the mourners could lay their tired bodies on the dry banana leaves spread out in the compound.

The above activities will go on for close to two weeks after the burial, with the burden left on the bereaved family to continue ensuring that the mourners are fed, boozed up and entertained.

It is said this tradition has persisted among the Jopadhola because people find it a great opportunity to court other people’s wives or engage the girls into a night-long open-air frolic.

“You know with us the Jopadhola when one family loses a dear one the whole clan feels the loss and the only way we can show our solidarity is to spend as many nights with the bereaved family as possible. We do this to help them get over the loss,” says Bilasio, a clan official. According to him, when death occurs, three condolence books are opened, one for the clan members, one for the in-laws and the third one for other sympathisers.

The money collected is announced to mourners and handed over to a selected bereaved family member who would then be audited just to make sure the money is spent on the welfare of the mourners.

On the burial day, the bereaved family is expected, by tradition, to slaughter a bull if the dead is a male or a cow if the dead is female to feed the mourners. It is said the dead would be terribly offended and the departed ancestors would not welcome their spirit if animal blood is not shed on their burial day.

When an adult dies, he or she can only be buried after the body spends two nights in the house.

At Ochieng’s burial, the area Local Council 3 chairman Mr. Obbo urged the mourners to return to their homes and tend to their gardens. He argued that the era for endless mourning is over if famine is to be avoided.

What the good Chairman did not tell the mourners was the fact that whenever death occurs in Padhola, it then becomes a double tragedy for the bereaved family. A double loss in that besides coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, the task of making mourners ‘comfortable’ leaves the family food stock depleted.

The problem of having to feed mourners who opt to hang around after the burial, for as long as two weeks, is an issue that is beginning to raise many eyebrows.

According to Adhola culture, visitors would always be welcome for as long as they choose to stay. It is considered bad manners to send them away.

To solve the problem of food shortage at funerals, clan heads demanded that every women who comes to mourn, brings along at least two kilograms of millet floor to help feed the mourners. However, the general lack of food due to constant droughts could not allow this otherwise good custom to continue.

Now the Adhola communities in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja have decided to form associations to take care of death-related problems. A membership fee is paid every month and in the event of the death of a member or their close relatives, the association meets most of the funeral expenses. According to Obbo, the Muslim way of burying the dead should be adopted. He believes a day is long enough to mourn and pay respect to the dead.

It is said that a good community bids their dead a decent farewell into the yonder world, but a noble community takes care of the bereaved.

Tororo’s endless vigils

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