Home > Short Shorts > The Street of Coffin-Makers

The Street of Coffin-Makers

August 27, 2006

The Lagosians of Isale Eko come here with great fanfare when an old person dies. They order the most expensive casket, hire out a school’s sports field, throw a large party with canopies, live music and colorful outfits. The gift of longevity is celebrated. But if the deceased is a youth, fallen before life’s fruition, they buy a simple box. The rites are performed under grief’s discreet shadow: a small afternoon burial on a weekday, a somber brass band, and everyone in black.

by Teju Cole

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  1. August 28, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Wonderful, Teju. Looking forward to the book.

  2. August 28, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    …and wishing there were a Teju-image above this post!

  3. August 28, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    i love this picture of a joyful, colorful funeral following a long and full life.

    with the death of the young – as we witness in our own nation daily – there is the loss of potential and of hopes that may seem so sure as to be real.

    nice word-pictures, teju

  4. victoria
    August 29, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    this is a fantastic piece. Being a nigerian, i totally understand what you’re writing. I have dreamed of writing about the experiences I had in Nigeria, but I have been discouraged from writing any such thing; I have been told that it’s a culturally obscure country whose people are most often known for their fraudelent acts. i love your piece.

  5. August 29, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    Thanks for your kind comments. Kasturi, it’s a hard thing to understand, isn’t it, that death isn’t just death, that it very much depends on who’s dying and when.

    Victoria, I’m encouraged by your words. I very much hope Nigerians of my generation put their experiences and their culture on the literary map. Our “ordinary” environment is interesting to people, if we can find a way to make it so. In fact, I think that movement is starting already, after a long fallow period in the life of our country.

    One thing *you* can do, to be part of it, is to start a blog of your own. Who knows what might follow?

  6. August 30, 2006 at 11:46 am

    Amazing that sorrow can be shaped according to the age of the dear departed one. Goes to show that even emotions we think are universal appear different in different places, different cultures.

  7. August 31, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Lovely piece. I was expecting a short story but nothing this short. However on reading it, I understand and appreciate the story fully.

    Teju, e se o.

  8. September 1, 2006 at 7:00 am

    death isn’t just death, that it very much depends on who’s dying and when
    An excellent example of the ergonomic principle at the heart of African humanism. Concepts, like hand tools, bend to the exigencies of person, place and occasion rather than becoming rigid, disembodied and ultimately unreal abstractions, as in European worldviews. (Please forgive the sweeping generalization! I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions. This is my own analyis, not something I read somewhere, so probably it’s full of holes.)

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