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 Cameroonian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Ni-Vanuatu funeral traditions and Togolese funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Religious and Death Beliefs
Christianity is the most common religion in Cameroon with 70% of the population. The next most common religion is Islam at 20%. To break down those who identify as Christian, 32.4% are Roman Catholic, 30.3% Protestant, and the rest belong to other Christian denominations. For those who identify as Muslim, most people identify as Sunni Muslims.
Depending on religious and personal beliefs, some families do autopsies to determine the cause of death because they worry that the death could be caused by witchcraft.
Cameroonian Funeral Customs
Before a Cameroonian funeral, there’s an all-night wake with drums, food, and wine to celebrate the deceased’s life. After viewing the body, you say your respects to the village chief.
For the funeral, there’s typically a short Christian funeral service, but the eulogies tend to be longer. Some people may choose to wear black while some may wear colorful clothing. They invite the entire community so it may be a large event.
For the burial, some families may choose to have their loved one buried close to their home rather than in a cemetery so they’re close by.
While mourning, the deceased’s close relatives shave their heads. Then, about a year after the death, they have a celebration to honor the deceased who they consider an ancestor now. Everyone honors and remembers their ancestors by reciting oral literature. They also may rebury their ancestors in more elaborate tombs and leave food offerings and say prayers.