Ghanaians in New York City abhor funerals – survey says

by Kofi Ayim

Most Ghanaians in New York are not enthused about the importation and practice of traditional funeral rites from Ghana to New York City. A survey conducted by Amansan Radio of New York, after elaborate panel discussions on the theme “Should Ghanaians Observe Strict Traditional Funeral Rites Abroad?” on the program Yɛn Mre Nie (This Is Our Time), shows that 70% of females between 18 and 40 years of age opined that the practice should be abolished, while 65% of their male counterparts toed the same line. Of those between the ages of 18 and 40, 75% identified themselves as Christians and/or regular churchgoers, 20% Muslims, and 5% non-denominational. On the flip side, 44% of both sexes between the ages of 40 and 70 believe the tradition should be allowed to continue, and 40% out of this category think the practice should be limited to Ghanaians living abroad, rather than importing funerals from Ghana. However, 16% of all surveyed would rather abolish funerals in their entirety, citing financial and time constraints.


Poll analysts contend that those between the ages of 40 and 70 are more likely to be 1st generation Ghanaians who migrated to the U.S. at a ripe and mature age and with deep attachment to their culture; those 18–40 years are either 2nd-generation Ghanaians born in the U.S. or were sponsored to come to the U.S. by relatives with a modicum of culture and a mega dose of religion in their veins. “Those that proposes the abolishment of the tradition are neither here nor there,” said one analyst not involved in the survey.

Back home in Ghana, funeral ends at the close of the day, or dusk at the latest. As much as there is nothing attractive about death, Ghanaians living abroad are confronted with the acute challenges of a hitherto sacred funeral observance that tend to make it even less “attractive” to participate. In New York City and elsewhere outside Ghana, to maximize attendance, funerals are held late at night when most in the community are free from daytime work and chores, and into the wee hours of dawn. This involves nighttime driving, with all the clear and imminent dangers that poses for most drivers, especially during inclement weather. For this and other reasons, funeral attendance is compromised for the elderly. The second and third generation of Ghanaians are by default not interested in the cultural aspects of funeral. They see no motivation to attend a funeral at night – unless the decedent is closely related or they are specifically requested to – when American culture depicts it otherwise. Further, because funeral protocol and processes are conducted in a traditional Ghanaian language which most do not speak or understand, it makes no sense to the average Ghanaian youth to attend a funeral where there is no understanding, culturally speaking, of the dynamic processes. The question of “Should Ghanaians Observe Strict Traditional Funeral Rites Abroad?” will be irrelevant in the very near future when second generation Ghanaians and beyond become senior citizens in their communities, according to one expert. Meanwhile the debate continues unabated.

Posted by on Nov 16 2017. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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