Zimbabwe – MBIRA queen Chiwoniso Maraire was yesterday laid to rest at her rural home in Chakohwa Village in Mutambara, Manicaland, amid a family feud which saw her body spending another night outside her home.
There was drama and speculation that was surrounding Chiwoniso’s burial as mourners were not allowed to view her body upon arrival at her rural home in Chimanimani on Sunday night before her burial yesterday.
Traditionally, the body is supposed to lie in state in the house but Chiwoniso’s body, which was first denied entry into her father’s home in Bluffhill, Harare, was also denied at the rural home to the bemusement of the village elders.
Chiwoniso lived at the Bluffhill home, but her body was denied entry by her family. The elders and mourners questioned why she was not given a proper send-off worthy of a mbira icon with some of them walking out.
Controversy surrounds the family’s decision not to afford Chiwoniso a traditional funeral and consequently the family was fined US$50 by the village elders for breaking a traditional custom.
After leaving Harare, the body arrived in a hearse at Chakohwa at 2340hrs, but her casket remained in the vehicle. Village headman Noel Mutidzawanda announced that there would be no body viewing as instructed by officials from a funeral parlour that dressed the corpse.
“We were told not to open the casket because the disease that claimed her life is highly contagious,” Chiwoniso’s uncle Tennyson Maraire said.
Digging of her grave started at around 9 am yesterday with family members remaining tight lipped about this development save for speculation that there were family squabbles.
A family member who requested anonymity confirmed the developments but said it was not clear why the family denied Chiwoniso’s body entry into her rural home.
“The decision to deny the body entry into the home was made when the family met at the funeral parlour, but it was not clear why they decided to do that. What we know is that the doctors confirmed that she died of pneumonia,” the family member said.
Apart from the drama, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara applauded artistes for giving Maraire a big sendoff, describing her as someone who had brought culture and tradition onto the international scene using the Mbira instrument.
“I am here as son of Chief Mutambara as well as representing the government although it expires today (yesterday). When someone dies, as much as we mourn, we should learn something from each and every funeral,” he said.
Chiwoniso was buried next to her father, the late mbira player and teacher, Dumisani Maraire.
Her daughters Chengeto and Chiedza Brown, and half-sister Ammara Brown, gave an emotional jam session as they sang songs composed by both Andy Brown and Chiwoniso Maraire on Sunday night. Ammara’s mother died a few months before Brown passed on in March last year.