Times of the Islands Winter 2019/20

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Presents the "soul of the Turks & Caicos Islands" with in-depth features about local people, culture, history, environment, businesses, resorts, restaurants and activities.

followed by burial. These are accompanied by memorial

programs containing the obituary and photos, and often

other memory items such as buttons or shirts.

These traditional funeral activities are actually a blend

of many traditions that have fed into the Islands: those of

the English, Irish and Scots who settled here, plus African

beliefs and more modern iterations of ancient rites. The

“island wake,” an all-night event with singing, dancing

and refreshments, for example, is a version of the ancient

tradition of safeguarding a corpse until burial. It borrows

from both the famed Irish wakes and the African frenzy-like

displays of sorrow. Families put their own spin on

the wake; for some it’s a more religious compendium of

gospel music, while others turn the event into a full-blown

final party for the deceased. The next day’s religious services

are also tinged by the fragile emotional states from

a full night of wakefulness.

Those who have noticed processions of a white,

glass-sided carriage during funerals are also seeing an

influence from outside the Islands, in this case the theatrical

funerals of New Orleans (which also grew from

Euro-African traditions). Since Elbert Higgs and a friend

built the carriage, Adelphine notes, it has been used in

about half of the A&S funerals, “Mostly in the younger

generation,” she says. The idea of the mobile display of a

casket is only somewhat traditional in the Islands.

Top: Funeral carriages such as this one in the Bahamas are also used

in the Turks & Caicos.

Above: This donkey-drawn funeral hearse was used on Grand Turk

during the 1960s.

Some small changes

Most, but not all, go this traditional route. With the influence

of outsiders, more people have become interested

in cremation and other options such as burial at sea and

“green” funerals. A&S has become flexible enough to deal

with these options, and Adelphine kindly shared explanations

and comments on them, even though cremation is

less than one percent of their business and other traditions

are far less.

When cremation is requested, she says, it must be

done outside of the TCI since there is no crematory in

ISTOCKPHOTO.COM TURKS & CAICOS NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION

Times of the Islands Winter 2019/20 47

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