Traditional African Understanding Of Death 

Traditional African Understanding Of Death

  • The dead were buried with material things to use them in the next world like food, saucepans the Egyptians kings were buried with wives and slaves.
  • The dead were buried near their homes like in the compounds to keep the communication with the living hence the proof that they were not dead. E.g. among the semia of Eastern Uganda.
  • Names of the dead were given to the new born babies so that the dead would still be seen through the living.
  • The grave yards of the dead were kept clean with flowers in order to keep them in a good environment as if they were alive.
  • Special houses called shrines were built for the dead. This was very common in Buganda hence a proof that the dead were not dead.
  • Funeral rites were organized for the dead and they were given heirs to keep their names going on.
  • The dead were granted descent or respected burials as they had requested to stop them from punishing the living.
  • Food was always given to the dead in the shrines for consumption and this also proved that the dead were not dead.
  • The living always visited the burial grounds of the dead to check on them and hence the dead were not dead.
  • Sacrifices of animals, chickenetc. were offered to the departed members of the society.
  • In some societies, massages were whispered into the ears of the dead meaning that they were not completely among the Bemba of Zambia.
  • The dead were also consulted on sensitive family and clan matters before making any decision.
  • In some societies, people sang and danced for the departed members in order to appease them.
  • During ceremonies like weddings, the dead were always invited to attend and enjoy with the living.

Children were prohibited from playing and shouting near the grave yards so as not to disturb the resting ancestors.

1.  “To the Africans, the dead were not dead but they were living dead. “Justify the statement.  (13 marks) Approach:

The question wants the various ways in which the Africans in the past treated the dead people as if they were still alive.

How Christians Venerate/ Remember the Dead
  • Christians pray through the departed Christians e.g. they pray through the Uganda martyrs.
  • They name and baptize young ones names of the dead Christians e.g. John Paul, Simon peter, Joseph Mukasa, Balikuddembe etc.
  • They also pray for the dead Christians especially on all saints day.
  • They have built schools and institutions and named them after the dead Christians .e.g. Uganda Martyrss. st. Namugongo st. Joseph s.s, Nsambya etc.
  • The Church has influenced government to name streets after the dead Christians .e.g.LuwumStreet in Kampala.
  • Departed Christians are sometimes buried near churches e.g.msg Nsobya was buried near Kitovu cathedral.
  • They make portraits or statues that resemble the dead Christians. E.g. the portraits of John the Baptists at Christ the King church in Kampala
  • They have written many books about the dead Christians e.g. the book about the Uganda martyrs, saint.Paul’s missionary journeys.
  • They have built churches and named them after the dead Christians .e.g.St. Paul’s cathedral Namirembe,Uganda martyrs church Namugongo etc.
  • They carry out ceremonies of canonation for the departed Christians where they are declared as the late pope John Paul II
  • Christians preserve the bodies of the dead Christians to prevent them from decaying for public viewing e.g the body of the late Arch Bishop Kiwanuka was kept in Rubaga Cathedral.
  • During preaching in the church, the dead Christians are sometimes given as reference to Christians.
  • Christians compose songs which praise the departed Christians.E.g. the Catholic Church song about the white fathers Amaasi and Mapeera.

1. In what ways do Christians remember the departed today? OR Show how the departed Christians are venerated today. (12 marks)


Both questions are similar and they are calling for the different ways in which Christians/the church remembers those who died in Christianity.

How Christians Prepare For Unending Life
  • The church prepares people for unending life through praying for them all the time.
    • It also calls upon people to fast for Jesus’ sake as a way of making them ready for Life after death.
    • By baptizing them in Jesus’ name, the church also prepares people for life after here.
    • The church preaches the good news to the people hence making them ready for unending Life.
    • The church encourages people to repent off their sins and receive God’s forgiveness.
    • It prepares them, by encouraging them to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus or believe in Life after death.
    • The church also holds worship services with the people as a way of preparing them for life after her.
    • By calling for monogamous marriages as well as permanent marriages among couples.
    • By holding Bible study lessons among Christians where they are taught the meaning of scriptures.
    • By holding counseling and guidance sessions among all Christians with social challenges.
    • By encouraging Christians to help one another especially the needy people.
    • The church also encourages Love and kindness among Christians as a way of preparing them for unending life.
    • The church encourages Christians to have strong faith in Jesus Christ so as to have life after death.
    • Through holding crusades, seminars and conferences, the church is preparing people for unending Life.

. Show how the church prepares people for unending Life today. (12 marks)


It wants the ways the church is helping people to go to heaven after death.

Revision question

1. How are the dead venerated/ remembered in the contemporary world today? (15 marks) Approach:

It wants the various ways in which the dead people are remembered in the secular world today.


  • Through giving their names to the new born babies
  • By building for the dead special houses called shrines where they are believed to continue staying.
  • Through organizing for them funeral rites after some time and giving them heirs.           
  • They are venerated through praising their name and the works they did when they were still alive.
  • Through visiting and cleaning the burial grounds of the departed members to keep them clean.
  • By sacrificing for the dead members in form of slaughtering animals, chicken etc. For them.
  • They are remembered through singing and dancing for the dead members in order to appease them.
  • By naming streets or roads names of the dead e.g Luwum street in Kampala, kafumbe Mukasa road etc.
  • Through building schools, commercial buildings and markets and name them names of the dead e.g Mutaasa Kafeero plaza in Kampala,Kakungulu memorial schools etc.
  • By redoing their good works like re-singing their songs e.g the songs of the Late EllyWamala have been re-sung by various artists today.
  • They are venerated through organizing memorial services for the dead every after a year.
  • They are remembered through shooting films or videos showing Lives of the the film about the Late President of Uganda Iddi Amin Dada.
  • Through producing and wearing clothes/T-shirts containing the pictures and names of the dead e.g T-shirts of the Late Bob Marley,Lucky Dube etc.
  • They are remembered by framing the photos of the dead and hanging them in houses and offices e.g Photos of the Late Kabaka of Buganda and First President of Uganda Muteesa II.
  • In some societies, the dead are remembered through offering them food and drinks in the shrines e.g some Baganda.

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