Sun | May 24, 2020

'Flashy funerals' - The new way to send off the dead

Published:Thursday | May 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis
The carriage that carried the casket with the remains of alleged gangster Oshane ‘Ganda’ Duhaney is a signal of the changing approach to funerals by some Jamaicans.

'Bling funerals' with loud music, naked as you dare dress, liquor, cigarettes, and 'weed' are becoming more and more prevalent across the island, replacing what was once a solemn occasion.

But sociologist Dr Orville Taylor says that much of the change has come over the last decade when the person being buried has been young.

According to Taylor, some Jamaicans have come to normalise funerals because of the frequency with which they have been occurring.

"It's a cultural shift. I think people are becoming a bit more immune to people dying, and to young people dying, so there is a kind of numbness they have regarding the solemnity of the occasion," said Taylor

For veteran journalist Fae Ellington, some people no longer see funerals as mourning opportunities. Instead, they see them as more celebratory occasions.

"A 'nine-night' (wake), 20 years ago, people would turn up with their sankey (a book of well-known hymns), and depending on which part of the island you are from, other things would be involved. Like if you were from St Mary, Dinky Miny would be involved; over in Westmoreland, Gerreh; over in Portland and St Thomas, Kumina.

"Not all homes or families endorsed these things, but [it was] definitely more funeral, more gloomy, more sad," said Ellington.




She argued that a big part of the change is linked to the dancehall culture as when a member of the fraternity dies, it is usually a big event, and so the lifestyle, the dress, the hairstyle, the sound system and even the behaviour that occupy the dancehall space is what you will get at these funerals.

"If you look at the celebratory approach, a lot of money is spent on showing off even though many of the people don't have the money. They ask people in the community such as the member of parliament and the councillor to assist.

"They may never have taken care of their family member while they were alive, but once they are dead, they have to 'poor show great'," added Ellington.

According to Ellington, in some countries, for example Ghana, death has long been celebrated, and the graves at these funerals are normally indicative of the person's occupation or lifestyle.

Taylor agreed and pointed to the ostentatious consumption, which is a big part of the dancehall culture.

"A lot of the people who are dying are homicide victims, and people who might very well have been involved in illegal type activities that are linked to the dancehall type culture.

"Because dancehall is about show, dancehall is about ostentatious consumption and profiling, so you are honouring someone who shares the dancehall culture. Thus, the funeral would be a reflection of that, and I think the funeral homes have adjusted to that as well," said Taylor.

"A lot has changed, and I'm not here telling you it has changed all for the worse or all for the better. It depends to whom you speak and what their priority is," added Ellington.