Death and Rebirth

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

A grave marker, Zaramo artist, Tanzania. Photo by Diane Pelrine.

Among the Zaramo people of coastal Tanzania, the graves of the deceased members of a family were marked with figurative wooden posts such as this one, to honor the deceased and to serve as a reminder for the living of their dependence on the ancestors.  This figure was photographed in a cemetery in 1985 and was one of the last surviving sculptures there.  As a result of Islam and literacy, people are now more likely to use markers containing pieces of broken ceramics (a Swahili custom) or markers with the deceased persons' names on them.