'Stay home or dance with us': Ghana's dancing pallbearers urge social distancing

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Ghana's dancing pallbearers - BBC Africa

They dance with death. Literally. 

In Ghana, Nana Otafrija Pallbearing & Waiting Services, provides funeral services — featuring half-dozen men, often dressed in black and white suits and sunglasses. Known as dancing pallbearers, they get down to festive beats, all while carrying a coffin on their shoulders during funeral processions.

Dancing with death is not new. Danse macabre images date back to the middle ages. Funeral dancing can be found at processions in New Orleans, and other parts of the world, as a way to celebrate a person's life and to lift loved ones' spirits. 

But in the time of the coronavirus, Ghana's dancing pallbearers appear to have struck an especially popular — albeit macabre — chord. 

The dancers carrying coffins have recently popped up in internet memes and videos poking fun at “epic fails.” Now, the pallbearers are being edited into public service messages about staying home to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

Their image has appeared on a billboard in Brazil, and in announcements in French and Portuguese to urge people to maintain social distancing. “Stay home or dance with us,” the messages warn.   

In Colombia, a group of police mimicked the dancing pallbearers on the back of a truck, dancing with a coffin, while a voice on a loudspeaker urged residents to stay indoors. 

In 2017, Benjamin Aidoo, leader of Nana Otafrija Pallbearing & Waiting Services, spoke to the BBC about their popularity in Ghana.

“We just ask the client, you want a solemn or do you want a big display?” he said.

Now, Aidoo appears to be embracing the new attention pallbearers are receiving. 

In this age of macabre humor and irony, the pandemic situation may likely mean more business — eventually.