July #72 : Shop Till You Drop - by Griffin Shea

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
E-newsletters
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join
Username:
Password:

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues




Table of Contents

Splitting Image

Is That All There Is to Approval?

Combination Strategies

Gimme Shelter

Bells, Books and Candles

Quickies

Calling All Angels

It's Raining Meds

Demand Results

S.O.S.

Parody Killed The Prevention Ad

Genes In The Bunch

Deaths

Shop Till You Drop

Gyn and Bitters

The Untouchables

Mailbox

All Lit Up



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


email print

July 2001

Shop Till You Drop

by Griffin Shea

Griffin Shea on Zimbabwe's casket boom

Deep in the shadow of Harare's office high-rises, Luck Street is mostly islands of pavement in a river of mud and potholes. Despite its name, this side street in Zimbabwe’s capital is where the city's least fortunate residents make their most-lasting purchases.

With an economy in free fall and more than 3,000 people dying of AIDS every week, coffin-making has become one of the country's few reliable sources of income. In outlying townships, vendors line up caskets for sale next to tables of fruits and vegetables on the dusty roadside. But if you're on a budget--and almost everyone here is--Luck Street is where you go for a bargain.

At Sunshine Funeral Home, a shady room behind a motorcycle repair shop, John Chipfuwamiti shows off his company's entire line of caskets, from a pressed-wood model that sells for about $15 to polished hardwood with brass handles, $130. He is every bit the salesman in his crisply ironed clothes, proudly pointed out that even the cheapest models have hand-sewn lining.

"Last year, there were more people dying than in previous years, " he says, explaining why he left his last job to take up coffin sales. "It was good business. People are dying."

One thing that AIDS hasn’t changed is the important place that funeral rites hold as part of the life cycle. Traditionalists say that the soul can take as long as a year to leave the body and join the ancestors in the spirit world, says Gordon Chavunduka, who heads the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healer's Association.  Chavunduka tells me that if people are not buried properly and given the complete funeral rites by a medium, their souls will haunt their living relatives. "After death, a number of rituals must be performed in order to assist the spirit," he says.

One of the nation's top experts on traditional culture and religion, Chavunduka is a very modern man. His office is just across from Sunshine Funeral in a contemporary building, and he sits at an enormous desk that evokes his past professions--a sociology professor and onetime head of Zimbabwe's National AIDS Council--more than his role as traditional healer.  As funerals become an increasingly common part of life, he says, all Zimbabweans might have to find ways of blending their customs and modern realities.  For about every 30 cents a mile, the enterprising owners of Sunshine Funeral will send corpses back to their hometowns for burial, because people prefer to be buried where they grew up. But skyrocketing inflation and chronic fuel shortage have made that very difficult for many urban dwellers, who are forced to buy a plot in cramped city cemeteries.

With more people leaving towns and villages every day in search of work in the capital, Harare has had trouble finding enough land for new homes, much less graves. Two years ago, city officials launched a campaign to encourage cremation. But that practice remains unpopular, particularly among black Africans, according to Eladinous Zimbwa, Harare's director of cemeteries, who says that eight of the city's ten cemeteries are full. Though most Zimbabweans are still reluctant to list AIDS as a cause of death, "The number of deaths has always being going up," Zimbwa says. "This is what we have noticed, and we think it is because of AIDS."

So the city is clearing up 5 square miles of land to expand one of its cemeteries on the outskirts, where most of the graves will be dusty plots in the bare earth. Unless the family is able to pay an extra fee, the city does not maintain the gravesite. The effect is something like Arlington National Cemetery without the grass or trees-acres of land covered with grave plots.

The new space should give Harare enough room to keep burying its dead for the next few years, Zimbwa says. But with 5 square miles expected to fill quickly, Chipfuwamiti won't have to worry about Sunshine Funeral closing its doors anytime soon.




[Go to top]

Join POZ Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar


    dversescott
    Baltimore
    Maryland


    slimcuteguy
    Asheville
    North Carolina


    ernienyc
    Bronx
    New York


    albsur7436
    San Francisco
    California
Click here to join POZ Personals!
Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Poll
Have you ever been tested for hepatitis C?
Yes
No

Survey
Pop Watch

more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2014 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.