Have you ever considered how you would like your final remains to be handled after you die?
The processes in which dead bodies are disposed off, varies between countries and may be influenced by factors such as the deceased wishes, beliefs or feelings. In Ghana and most African countries, earth burial, which involves the placing of a dead person into the ground, is mostly practiced. However, scarcity of land and cost of funerals are pushing many Ghanaians to opt for cremation amidst the cultural and religious perceptions that has painted the practice in a negative light.
Cremation is the process of reducing the body to ashes and bone fragments through the use of intense heat. The cremated remains (ashes) may be buried in the earth, scattered or kept in an urn (a vase often with a cover used to hold cremated ashes). Cremated remains resemble course sand and are usually white or grey in colour.
There are two cremation methods currently practiced in Ghana, the pyre method, which is practised at the Osu cemetery and the gas or electrical method which is also practiced at the Lashibi funeral home.
In the pyre method, the body is placed in a coffin or wrapped neatly then set on fire with firewood whereas the gas or electrical method involves the body being placed in a furnace and reduced to ashes by the use of gas or electricity.
The influence of the Hindu culture has seen many Ghanaians accept cremation in the last few decade. Their reasons may not only be religious or cultural but also include financial reasons or just the simplicity and neatness of the cremation process.
Speaking to a cremator of the Ghana Cremation Society and also a member of the Hindu Monarch of Africa, Mr. Tony Boesi,cremation costs less as compared to earth burial and is highly hygienic as the high temperatures kill any bacteria or virus the dead body may be carrying thus preventing and outbreak.
Cremation generally costs 40-50% less than the “traditional Ghanaian funeral” which are usually social events with wailing women and people expecting to be fed and entertained with alcohol, for several days leading to the burial. Also, cremation does not require a grave or headstone and embalming is not always needed.
Again, thereis the issue of lack of space in most Ghanaian cemeteries as some of the largest cemeteries in Accra, Osu and Awudomehave been stretched to their limits. Given to this current situation, cremation would be a best option for disposing off the dead.
Some notable Ghanaians who were cremated includes the former Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Jake Obetsebi Lamptey and the first Vice President in the 4thRepublic, Kow Nkensen Arkaah.
Mr Boesi pleaded with the government to help create awareness on the importance of cremation and also urged Ghanaians to change their perception about the practice being a way of punishing the dead and see it as a dignified way of disposing of the dead.
Sheila N. Abra
Ghana Institute of Journalism