The dead are awake, when the living are asleep
"Death is the fruit of life, life is the fruit of death" goes a saying of the Dyula of Senegal. When a human being has to leave the world one day, it is because he has lived, eaten, drunk, slept, worked, and rested, because he has tilled his fields, danced, celebrated, and above all all because he has produced children. In many myths death appears as the price to be paid for living life to the full. It is seen as the necessary prerequisite for the regeneration of man, nature, and cosmic energy. Without it there would be an eternal standstill. Life is a constant flow of forces and forms. It is movement and rest, circulation and activty. Looked at in this way, death is justified by life itself.
Death marks a turning point, but it is only a part of a continual process. The deceased continue their lives as ancsestors in the next world. In their new role as "chief elder" they are responsible for the well-being of their descendants.
Daily's coffin: a folded newspaper
The purpose of extravagant burials and funeral ceremonies is to strengthen contact with the dead, and relatives of the dead spare no efforts in achieving this. In recent times the Ga of coastal Ghana have buried their dead in unusual, brilliantly decorated "fantasy coffins." The usual rectangular wooden boxes were introduced into Ghana a long time ago by Europeans, and were seen as a privelege of important people. The unusual variations came into fashion toward the end of he 1960s. They are produced by a small group of carpenters in Teshie, near Accra. Their aim is to emphasize the individuality of the deceased and to represent special facets of their life.
The coffin makers showed their great skill in the design that was made for Ernest Tagoe, a fisherman who died at the age of 72. Ernest could not read or write himself, and every day he had his son read to him from Ghana's leading newspaper, the Daily Graphic. Once he had learned the latest news, he would go from house to hoise to discuss events with friends and neighbors. This earned him the nickname Daily.
His son wanted to secure a respectable position among the ancestors. The commissioned design of the coffin was in the shape of a folded newspaper. In the meantime the family kept vigil by the body.
When the coffin was ready and daily's body had been squeezed in, young men argued over the right to carry it to the burial ground. This part of the ritual is regarded as showing a special honor towrds the deceased, who will repay the favor in due course from his position in the next world. As soon as the coffin was closed, four strong young men, fortified even further by gin, lifted it onto their heads. Instead of marching in a dignified way, they ran with the coffin through the narrow streets. They were soon in a sweat, and every so often they staggered to a halt so that relatives and friends could say a final farewell to the dead man. When everyone far and wide had been informed of Daily's departure, the bearers made a number of detours so that deceased's soul would lose its bearings. This meant that the soul could not find its way back and was so forced to make its way to the kingdom of the dead, doing no further harm to the living. The bearers covered most of the ten miles to the cemetary at a running pace, and the funeral procession had trouble keeping up with them. The coffin was spun around many times, and it came to rest only when they reached the cemetary. The coffin was carefully lowered into the grave, a final offering was made, and the the mourners made their way back without further ceremony.
Daily was only properly established in the kingdom of the dead, however, after a further series of small commemorrative eremonies had been held for him.