Monday, September 27, 2021

“After tears” has changed how Batswana mourn their dead

Funerals used to be a sad and solemn occasion for the bereaved family. Neighbours and close friends tip toed around the homestead dealing with the loss; avoid making noise and disturbing the family during mourning. Televisions and radios were switched off and people would not come and go as they pleased in the family’s yard as a sign of respect for the occasion.In addition, the entire family of the deceased would not be allowed to venture out of the homestead after sunset. Fast forward to today and everything has changed.

The after tears “party” is an increasingly popular post-funeral feature, held at almost every place in the country pre-covid. Some deem it disrespectful  and tasteless because it violates decorum.

The after-tears party, a gathering that is held after a funeral is attended by mourners. The party usually takes place on the very day of the funeral in a venue a few houses down from the funeral or most commonly in the home of bereavement. The after tears soiree is notorious for the consumption of alcohol, loud music, women in skimpy outfits and generally disorderly behaviour, a stark contrast to the traditional sad and solemn affair.

Funerals are regarded as a period during which friends comfort the bereaved, but that narrative is rapidly changing with many now partying and drinking after the burial. People go with cooler boxes filled to the brim and camp chairs along with cars pumping deafening music. It’s a phenomenon that the elderly find hard to comprehend, with many saying the tradition of burying their loved ones with dignity has been lost.

Dr Poloko Ntswarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “Many people believe that the idea of ‘after tears’ does not bring comfort for the family involved. Why not take the alcohol money or money used for these parties and give it to the families as a measure of comfort? Some view after tears as just an excuse to drink as it also comes with the expense of burdening the families with controlling hooligan behaviour that sometimes happens. Funerals are characterized by the kind of quietness which did not even allow a radio to be played in a village. Although many young people have find comfort in this new tradition, some of their elders aren’t keen on the idea. This is because most families in the country adhere to strict funeral rites that focus on respect above all else. Many elders view anything outside of these traditions especially a party as a sign of extreme disrespect not only for traditions, but for the loved one who died.”

An after-tears party is a time to drink, listen to music and fondly remember a loved one who died. Some parties are relatively subdued, with only a handful of guests telling stories about their most treasured memories. Others are loud and boisterous, bordering on disrespectful. Going out after sunset when there was a death in the family was regarded as bringing even more bad luck on the family. It is seen as people being more and more inconsiderate under the guise that it is their right to do what they want and there is very little elderly people can do about it. Back then, what is now done by people and youth would have been shamed. The one time there was alcohol involved would have usually been traditional beer and only drunk a week after the funeral. This traditional ceremony was known as bojalwa ba di garawe. One might justify after tears parties by looking at it from a young person’s perspective – it is easy to see why young people have decided to throw their own after-tears parties. They don’t get the comfort that a funeral can bring. By spending time with their friends and family in a relaxed setting, they can remember their loved ones and release some of the stress that comes with losing someone they love.

Dr Sophie Moagi, clinical psychologist in Gaborone say, “A sense of respect is a primary concern with this tradition. The most effective after-tears parties focus on the person who died, not on drinking and socializing. The alcohol, conversations and music should be secondary. Some hosts will only play music that their loved one enjoyed, or focus their attention on telling heart-warming or humorous stories about them. It is also easy to see why elders are worried about the impact of after- tears parties on their traditions. Many of these parties are in direct violation of the solemn, silent, no-socializing rules that have been in place for centuries. Many elders believe they will bring misfortune to both the living and the person who died. Some elders also worry that the parties are an excuse for young people to drink in excess, and that the message of mourning has been lost.”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper