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"If We Don't Do It Then Who?"

African Voices: Seun Abiodun

Seun Abiodun

Manager, Century Gold Undertakers

Ibadan, Nigeria

Photographed on January 20, 2006

A pearly white casket with gold-plated handles stands just a few feet from busy Queen Elizabeth Road in Ibadan, Nigeria. The coffin is a not so subtle advertisement for Century Gold Undertakers, a hundred yards or so from the main entrance to University College Hospital. Its tiny showroom houses coffin samples (classic lacquered wood, metallic brushed gold or dark blue). Outside, a worker builds a new casket set on truck tires. Preparing for the morning's funeral, six "Band Boyz" don navy blue shirts, grab their drums and trumpets, and warm up with "When the Saints Go Marching In." Manager Seun Abiodun says a proper funeral reflects a good life.

“Let me just say things are going fine. Business is good. We sell maybe three caskets per week, about 12 per month. This one [an ornate lead-lined casket] costs 100,000 naira [about US$780]. For those people who are not rich, we sell for maybe 50,000 or 30,000 naira [US$390 or $230]. Those who can't afford to buy one, we tell them, "You should use the stretcher they're using at the hospital."

It is not sad work. We are happy we are selling caskets. It's a celebration of life. We are doing the celebration of life for the old ones. If you are in old age, you just die. If they die now, [their families] come here to buy caskets. And we organize the Band Boyz for them and pallbearers to hold the casket.

Let me just say we are praying for those people who die.”

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