Coming Home

More than two months after the horrific building collapse in Nigeria, the remains of more than 80 South Africans are finally making their way home, a massive relief to the family members who can finally see their relatives buried.

In nearly all cultures around the world death is associated with a set of prescribed rituals, and nowhere is this more true than in KwaZulu-Natal, where Zulu people have a very strong connection with their ancestors. Rituals relating to death and burial are very important in Zulu culture in order to ensure that the soul of the departed is reconnected with his or her ancestors. Meticulous care is taken to fulfill the funeral rites to avoid causing any offense to the departed, and the ancestors of the family.

The period preceding the burial is also accompanied by certain mourning rituals that must be carried out until the deceased is laid to rest. These include the smearing of the windows with ash to reflect a gloomy atmosphere, turning wall pictures from sight, and switching off radios and television sets – a public demonstration of the grief that the family feels. But what is normally a relatively short period in the grieving process, has been extended for months now as families wait for the remains of their loved ones to be returned home.

Our deepest condolences to all of the families that lost relatives on the 12th September this year. At least now proper burial rites can be observed, with family members hopefully being able to find some peace.

Click here to read a study by T.H.S. Setsiba on the mourning rituals and practices in contemporary South African townships.

Photography courtesy of

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