The Meaning of Death in Africa

Time and time again, the concept of death has been under debate. We constantly struggle to come to terms with death’s reality and understand what actually happens afterlife is gone.

Different cultures perceive death differently and have unique beliefs as to the topic of death. Subscribing to the thoughts of a particular culture means accepting their beliefs. As a result, we have so many people who believe different things concerning the human soul’s journey when death occurs.

What is Death?

The dictionary defines “death” as the extinction or the end of life. This definition is reasonable but not entirely acceptable across all cultures of the world. For instance, the Hindus believe in reincarnation, which means that they do not believe that life ends after death, but that the end of one life necessitates another. So also are there other cultures that have varied views on this concept.

The Meaning of Death in Africa

Death is a rite of passage to those who have lived an entire life. For Africans, death connotes a connection between the seen and the unseen world, i.e., the land of the living and the Dead. Unlike the Westerners’ belief, death is not a cessation of life but a transition of a person from one realm of existence to another.

This is where the concepts of Death and Ancestor ship are connected. Africans believe that life is cyclical, meaning no actual end to an individual’s life. Those who died at a ripe old age meet all the other criteria, become ancestors, and choose to be birthed a reincarnation process again.

In the same vein, young people who die suddenly without reaching the peak of their lives are not granted passage into the land of the ancestors. Instead, they become stuck in limbo, a world between that of the living and the dead.

Becoming an ancestor means having supernatural powers with which the Dead can look after their families and issue out blessings or pronounce curses on erring individuals. As a result, transcending to the pedestal of ancestors hip is a goal that everyone will sort after, which prompts people to live a good life and wish for a good death.

In the African belief system, there is expected and unexpected death. Expected death is one that the individual passes through a gradual process of extinction before life finally ends.

However, this process is non-existent or short in an unexpected death. It is the way an individual dies that suggests the way their loved ones mourn. In the case of expected death, the family begins to terms with it before death occurs. An unexpected death causes loved ones to grieve after the death happens.

On death’s subject, the average African’s general goal is to live a long, sound, and fulfilled life. In which case, death becomes a welcome reality and not a phenomenon to be feared.

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