On Monday, as I made my way back from a work trip to Teso, I had the privilege and the honour to stop by my aunt’s home, my ija Agadi, my late father’s sister, and to be part of her family as she had the grave of her late husband and of her late granddaughter restored.
Ija Agadi by the graves at her home
In Teso, we attach significant importance on the manner in which we bury our dead and on maintaining the graves and the entire burial grounds in which the remains of our loved ones, our ancestors, are laid to rest.
“In olden days the dead were buried within the cattle kraal or in the house in which they lived, the house continuing to be occupied for sometime after the internment. When huts containing graves were finally abandoned, they were never pulled down or destroyed, but left to decay. These customs are no longer followed and the dead are now buried in the compound, the grave often being marked with a small mound of stones or a cement slab. It is not unusual, however, in the case of important persons, to erect a house over the grave.”J. C. D. Lawrence in his book “The Iteso – Fifty Years of Change in a Nilo-Hamitic Tribe of Uganda.
For a married man and with his own home, it is often the case that his remains will be interred in a strategic location in his compound – sometimes, the location being of his choosing, while he was still alive.
Grandsons repair the graves
The location in which the remains of my late uncle were interred, in his compound, is downstream, so to speak. And so, when it rains, the rain water had been consistently and systematically eroding his grave, more specifically, the tomb cement.
For my aunt, the cement of her husband’s grave being eroded was a source of discomfort. When I suggested to her that I could cover the costs of restoring the cement and re-directing the water away from eroding the graves, within days, she swiftly mobilized and organised for it.
She got the restoration works cleared by her ekale (her and her children, most especially with the eldest among her surviving sons). The date was set and each had a role to play.That we, her children, made contributions of resources, including our time to do so, made my ija immensely happy.
My cousin sisters and my sister-in-love, wife to one of ija’s sons, did the cooking of a sumptuous lunch; as my cousin brothers were hands-on and even ensured that their teenage sons, the grandsons, provided the labour to restore the graves.
Work of restoring the graves in progress
There is no doubt that my ija is now more at peace as the resting place of her late husband has been restored to a dignified state.