Mandela’s Funeral Attracts Hundreds and the Famous: An Opportunity for South African locals?

Nelsen Mendela continues to be a symbol of freedom and democracy for all, and is respected and revered by many. His legacy easily makes him extremely famous and his funeral is attracting the attendance of several key individuals including President Bill Clinton, President Obama, and and several other dignitaries. Several world leaders will be in South Africa for this extremely public event, and this is not a surprise to me. It seems as though our culture today expects large, lavish funerals for those who are famous or have contributed greatly to society, and that the public has automatically demanded a right to grieve along with family of the dead. What is interesting about this to me  is the fact that several, several people are going to benefit economically from this momentous event. Suddenly, Mandela regalia has a large demand, and South African locals are benefiting greatly from the influx of visitors.

In the article above, it is said that Mandela’s funeral will be an event for hundreds and it is attracting the attendance of several world-renown icons. South Africa is expected to receive hundreds, even thousands of visitors who will be coming to pay homage to the great leader. Nelson Mandela, at the age of 95, passed away earlier this week, on Thurs Dec 5th, and since then there have been grand plans being made for his funeral. As discussed in class, there is great attention payed to the funeral services of the famous, and this funeral is bound to be a grand event. His funeral is expected to be one week long, and is to included days of prayer and mourning, among other activities.

What is not spoken about is the industry that will benefit from this funeral. The article hints at the business that the state airline, South Africa Airlines, will receive. They will be providing private chartering of flights for several dignitaries to attend, and they will accommodate hundreds of people who will be entering the country in the next week or so.  They also mentioned the increase in Mandela merchandise, such as shirts, posters, pictures, or other regalia. This, along with the revenue from hotels, restaurants, or other services, will be enough for the South African locals to benefit from. In many senses, Mandela’s death will benefit several individuals.

This is similar to the deaths of recent public figures; Micheal Jackson, Whitney Houston, or Princess Diana. This is slightly problematic, but yet a fact of life; people benefit from the death of others. Especially famous people. Almost anything can become a commodity, can’t it?


One response to “Mandela’s Funeral Attracts Hundreds and the Famous: An Opportunity for South African locals?

  1. It is fascinating, I think, to reflect on the economic conditions surrounding events that we don’t typically regard as economic. As Mandela has been declining for several months, I wonder if people who sell Mandela memorabilia have been stocking up and if producers of these things increased production in anticipation of his passing.

    I might challenge Shade a bit on her perhaps overly cynical interpretation of “the commodification” of the funeral. Instead of seeing the circulation of these memorabilia in terms of narrow self interest in profit, we might wonder if they are doing any cultural work. Could the purchasing and display of such items contribute to the sense communitas characteristic of a liminal period immediately following a leader’s death? Certainly we don’t want to be naive, but also we should take seriously, I think, people’s desires to own and use certain kinds of things. There may be ways of forging meaningful lives within the context of consumerist societies–anthropologists need to explore these possibilities.

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