Death beautifiers: Tombstone makers speak

By Fairstars Mukungurutse

Although stone sculpting has been celebrated in more ways than one, we cast the spotlight on funerary art where some craftsmen have come up with unique tombstone designs.

While most people undoubtedly experience some level of discomfort when confronted with the reality of death after losing a loved one, one of the most important decisions is to decide their final resting place and how it will be marked.

In the same vein some people are not too comfortable with just the thought of enlisting the services of tombstone makers.

Be that as it may, it is the sad reality that comes with the death of a loved one and in comes a special group of craftsmen who are gifted in their own right.

“I started this 15 years ago and what really compelled me to do this art is the need to make sure our loved ones have a good resting place. Though they are gone, they deserve to be housed in a better place,” says Michael Muchero, a tomb sculptor.

Though it is their source of livelihood, they also share the pain of losing a loved one with their clients.

“When clients come to buy the stones one after the other and as they share with us the sad stories of what happened, we are touched. I don’t want to lie, but we can’t help it. The work needs to be done by someone,” says another tomb sculptor, Gideon Chidongo.

As the stone engraver works on the tombstone, he does it with precision. Like a laser machine, he engraves the exact photograph of the deceased on the tombstone.

Tomb engraver Allan Tarwirweyi says: “This is a form of art. We engrave the deceased’s photo on the tombstone for relatives and friends to remember them. It’s a life time thing.”

The tombstones, however, come in different shapes, sizes and designs.

“We make different types of tombstones as per one’s request. We have pyramids, caskets, mausoleum-shaped ones,” says tomb sculptor Denford Munemero.

With death being a mystery and finding meaning in it, a daunting task, there are those who try as much as possible to give it some form of dignity and respect.