Mourners have a particular dress code they adhere to for sending their dead to the land of the Ancestors. Generally, it is red, black, brown and white or orange. To attend the burial and funeral celebration of an elder the usual colour of the attire worn is black and white cloth. If it’s a youth or adult being buried black and red are worn.
The Asantes have made an art out of the mourning dress code. Prior to the body being retrieved from the morgue the Asantes were black cloth on the upper body and brown on the lower part. When the body is being retrieved from the morgue and is laid in state, the Asantes wear black, red and brown; the same colours are worn on the morning of burial day. For the latter the men were all black while women wear black on the upper body and red or brown on the lower portion of their bodies.
To Westerns, who regard funerals and mourning as a subdued event, commemorating the dead in the vibrant red might seem sacrilegious but vibrancy is characteristic of the fact that Ghanaians do not consider death as the end of one’s existence. Generally, death is not observed as a depressive matter but a transition of state. A funeral is meant to celebrate one’s physical existence before entering the revered spiritual realm of the Ancestors, and to Ghanaians no other colour befits such an apogean occasion as red.
During the afternoon following the burial Asantes reverse the order of wearing the burial colours: for both males and females red goes on the upper body and black on the bottom. The children of the deceased often wear red head or arm bands to symbolize that they are the immediate offspring.
The funeral celebration is merely an extension of the celebration of the wake. It is generally kept in an open space, such as a football field or school grounds to accommodate the numerous mourners who always come to give their condolences and wish the deceased a safe journey.
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