Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Gabonese funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Kyrgyz funeral traditions and Turkmen funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
More than 90% of Gabon’s population practices some form of Christianity, with Roman Catholicism being the most common. However, some Gabonese people practice a mixture of Christian and traditional religions.
For example, the Babongo people of Gabon practice a combination of traditional Bwiti and Christian religious beliefs. The Babongo also are called the forest people, as they live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
Gabonese Funeral Ceremony and Burial
For a Gabonese funeral ceremony, they wear masks made of wood and other materials. They also wear masks for other significant ceremonies, like weddings and births. The specific mask may depend on the ceremony and group of people. After the funeral ceremony, they bury the body in a wooden casket within two days of the death, if possible.
Ceremonies, like funerals, for the Babongo people revolve around music and dance. The entire community gathers to sing, dance, and play the drums. The Babongo people also have a special purification ritual when someone dies. Their funeral rituals typically last three days, and women paint their faces white during the three-day ritual.
Mourning Period and Memorialization
They have a memorial ceremony on the one-year anniversary of the death to symbolize the end of the formal mourning period. There may be additional ceremonies to honor the deceased’s memory, as well. They also memorialize the deceased and their ancestors and ask them for advice.