Friday, August 10, 2012

Red, Red, Sad and Lively Red

Today Accra is red.

It's the day of the funeral for Ghana's late president, Professor John Evans Atta Mills.


In the US red is the color of love and passion.  In Spain it's the color of bullfights.  In Ghana it is the color for funerals.

In Ghana, pass by a collection of tents with well-dressed folks sitting in rows of chairs and a few dancers moving to music pumping from large speakers, and you know you've passed either a wedding or a funeral.

If everyone is wearing black and red, it's a funeral.

The black is familiar - it's what we wear to funerals in the US, too.  But the red is different.


Notice I said before that the music is pumping whether it's a wedding or a funeral.  Yes, in Ghana, people dance at memorial services.  To me this is what the red symbolizes - an admission that though a funeral is about sadness and grief (the black), it is also about life and celebration (the red).

And so, today, Accra is red.  There is red bunting wound around streetlights and road barriers all along Independence Avenue in front of the presidential Flagstaff House.  Red strips of cloth fly from the side mirrors of decrepit taxis and fancy Land Rovers alike.  A woman in a black and red funeral dress sells red-ribboned badges with a picture of the president "in loving memory."

All around Accra, street vendors sell anything red - red strips of fabric, red shirts,
red hats and bags - to be used as a mark of commemoration.

A friend tells me people have been lined up day and night to view the president's body at State House.

Walking along my local shopping strip of Oxford Street yesterday, I stopped at a tiny street-side shop to buy an electrical power strip.  The shop's barely-twenty-ish proprietor came running over.

As he helped me find what I wanted, his hips sashayed to music pumping from nearby speakers.  When I asked him why the music and the dancing, "We are getting ready for the funeral of our president," he said.

Yes, preparing for grief with music and dancing.  In Ghana, that's what funeral red is all about.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I passed on, I would like to have my playlist from my iPod played with a soul train line.

Sakin said...

This is how we need to cry our deaths;).