Customs: Okoth kin bury banana stem after cremation

Monday, August 5th, 2019 00:00 |
Kibra MP Ken Okoth’s mother Angeline Ajwang’ when she arrived her home at Ogenga village in Kabondo Kasipul constituency after a week long stay in Nairobi yesterday.

In this age, people have designed new ways of keeping lasting memories of their loved ones once they pass on. Milliam Murigi lets us in on these new unconventional trends

Last year, Charlotte Walton from England surprised many when she glued her late dad’s ashes into her acrylic nails to honour his promise of walking her down the aisle.

Walton, 26, had hoped her father would be there to give her away when she married her partner Nick, 33, on August 30 last year.

Tragically her father, Mick Barber, died of cancer months earlier in April, rendering the dream impossible. 

Although not the equivalent of having her dad there in person, her cousin Kirsty came up with the idea of having Mick’s ashes incorporated into her acrylic nail.

Gone are the times when a simple eulogy would suffice in remembering loved ones. 

In Kenya, celebrities such as rapper Jackson Makini alias Prezzo and TV host Willis Raburu and his wife Marya Prude have inked memorial tattoos on them to ensure their loved ones remain close to them even in death. 

And to ensure this becomes a permanent reminder, some studios are now offering custom ink containing their loved ones’ remains.

Prezzo inked a tattoo with his late father’s image on his arm with the words, “I will mourn you till I join you”.

This year, after the Raburus lost their firstborn daughter, they uniquely honoured the momories of their stillborn daughter, Adana, by getting tattoos of their little angel.

Prude’s tattoo was of the daughter’s name Adana, while Raburu had the first letter of his child’s name with a crown on top and the date she died.

Burial costs

One of the  other unconventional ways of preserving the memory of a loved one is by creating keepsake jewellery with ashes from cremated body. 

From big specialist companies to bespoke jewellers and artisans, there is a huge range of pendants, bracelets and ring designs to choose from including fillable lockets for ashes, fingerprint mementos and crystal beads made to commemorate a loved one.

Artists convert human remains into professional portraits. Others plant a seed into the cremation vessel and witness a tree quickly sprout from the ashes of their loved one. 

“Depending on the culture, most of the Western world has embraced cremation due to lack of land for cemeteries, burial costs and inclination towards keeping remains. In Kenya, the practice isn’t much tolerated, but it is starting to become common mostly among persons of a higher status in society,” says Fiona Atieno, a sociologist based in Nairobi.

Other people opt to get tattoos that only them and the deceased knew about or a quote from their favourite book. 

To ensure that this becomes a permanent reminder, some studios are now offering custom ink containing their remains.

The process of getting this unique memorial tattoo to bereaved customers involves mixing a small amount of your loved one’s ashes with tattoo ink, which can then be used in a range of designs.

Some companies are taking the idea of keeping dead people’s ashes a notch higher. A ceramic company in the US, Chronicle Cremation Designs, uses cremation ashes to create beautiful bespoke ceramics, decorated with glazes that incorporate the ashes of a loved one. It makes ceramic cups on order for people who want a regularly used item to remember their loved one.

Atieno says when a person dies and their remains are kept in the form of ashes, it facilitates a belief that the person isn’t completely gone.

Although burials are usually the norm, many people struggle with the thought of leaving the deceased in a coffin awaiting decomposition, so keeping ashes is considered a viable alternative.

As therapy

“Keeping the ashes can be therapeutic to an individual, but a constant reminder of loss to another, and so, it is not accurate to say it is 100 per cent beneficial in dealing with grief,“ she says.

She says although people grieve differently, having your loved one’s remains in an urn or converted into some plaque of some sort or jewellery can create other issues of obsession with remains. Depression is common during mourning and can lead to loss of touch with reality.

She adds: “Grieving is an individual journey and takes time. Dealing with an attachment which has obsessive-compulsive characteristics is quite the same as handling an addiction shrouded in the loss.”

Additionally, Atieno says having such attachment with the dead can be dangerous, especially incase ashes or the items used for remembrance are lost. This, she says, can automatically lead to another bout of grieving.

“The decision to keep the remains completely lies with the living as they are the only ones who can decide what to do with the remains of the deceased,” she says.

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