Segments in this Video

Ghana: Fantasy Coffins (04:33)


In Teshi, Ghana, fantasy coffins are constructed to match the personalities of the deceased. Coffins take the shapes of animals, birds, fowl, cars, cell phones, fish, tools, plants, and many more.

Funerals in Africa: Expensive and Showy (03:10)

Funerals in Ghana are expensive, but families want to honor the stature of their loved ones during the funeral and procession. Mourners make a show of crying to fend off evil spirits that may visit the dead. No expense or noise is spared.

Rituals for the Dead in Africa (04:51)

Family members and villagers speak to the dead and ask them to intercede on their behalf when they reach the other side. Christians might be buried in fantasy coffins in the shape of a Bible or a church.

Funeral Rites of the Dogon in Mali (03:05)

The Dogon believe that the souls of the departed who have not yet left the earth are responsible for the fermentation of beer. Funeral celebrations are noisy and colorful. Dogon people do not celebrate the deaths of minors.

Residential Development for AIDS Patients (02:56)

Sparrow Rainbow Village in South Africa was the first residential development in the world to be established to meet the needs of terminally ill AIDS patients. Its 500 residents are mostly children.

AIDS Epidemic in South Africa: Orphans (04:34)

Approximately 2-3 million orphans are infected with the HIV virus in South Africa. At Sparrow Rainbow Village, many of these children are cared for by loving adults.

AIDS Threat in Africa (03:27)

Many Africans perceive AIDS as a curse that will kill everyone in the end. Of the 15 million people who have died from AIDS in the world, 11 million were Africans. In the West, AIDS deaths are decreasing every year. In Africa, death rates increase every month.

Life and Death of AIDS Orphans (03:20)

AIDS orphans infected with HIV are encouraged to eat and play at the Sparrow Rainbow Village in South Africa. If a child is near death, the staff reaches out to relatives. Even if a vaccine can prevent AIDS, the orphans will still need care.

Beliefs About Death in Niger (02:14)

In Niger, the Fulani of the Sahel have peculiar views about death. They do not believe in an afterlife, but they do believe that having numerous children will help preserve their memory. The child mortality rate is high.

Death Rituals in Burkina Faso (04:13)

In Burkina Faso, the griot or storyteller passes on oral traditions. He accompanies himself with the tam tam, a percussion instrument. He passes through the village, announcing the death of a leader. People follow him to the funeral.

Power of Blacksmiths in Burkina Faso (03:23)

In Burkina Faso, blacksmiths once had a lot of power because kings trusted them to make good weapons. Blacksmiths also function as mediators and perform important roles in funeral rituals. Their wives prepare the funeral beer over fires.

Burkina Faso: Inverted Life of the Dead (03:20)

In the world of the dead, an inverted life develops, according to tradition in Burkina Faso. The dead experience day as the living experience night, and so forth. The living speak to the dead backwards. Often the dead refuse to leave the world.

Music to Celebrate the Dead (04:20)

Music is an important part of funeral rituals in Burkina Faso. The tam tam, or percussion instrument, transmits the joy that the dead person has experienced. Dancers dance to the music of the tam tams.

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Dying in Africa: Perspectives on the End of Life in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and South Africa

Part of the Series : The Call of Africa: The Voice of a Continent
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In Africa—where infant mortality is sky-high, tens of millions have AIDS, and life expectancies can be as meager as 39 years—death is an all-too-frequent presence. This program presents sub-Saharan perspectives on the end of life: lavish Ghanaian funerals involving caskets shaped into whatever is most emblematic of the deceased; funeral rites of the Dogon, in Mali, where alcohol fermentation is attributed to the powers of the departed; the views of the Fulani of the Sahel, who do not believe in life after death; and the roles of the griot’s tam-tam drum and fire kindled by a blacksmith’s wife in the funeral rites of rural Burkina Faso. In addition, the good works of Sparrow Rainbow Village, in South Africa—the only residential facility in Africa established to meet the needs of terminally ill AIDS patients—are documented. (Portions in other languages with English subtitles, 50 minutes)

Length: 51 minutes

Item#: BVL39449

ISBN: 978-1-60467-351-7

Copyright date: ©2004

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

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Only available in USA and Canada.