Farewell to Jeremiah Byarahugo, Our Beloved Traditional Healer

The last five years the vast majority of hikers on the Gorilla Highlands Trails began their cultural experience with a visit to Jeremiah Byarahugo. Last Saturday he again introduced two groups to the secrets of traditional healing, an East African Playgrounds team beginning a 4-day walking safari to Bwindi and some visitors from Kampala doing Culture on the Crest.

That is why we simply couldn’t believe the news on Sunday. That he had passed away.

But it was very true… The old man fell while walking, hurt his head. They took him to a hospital in Kabale but it didn’t help.

To understand what a star we have lost, watch the video above and see our collection of stories about him (he even features in a poem!). Yet what really matters is: Jeremiah was a good man. Always kind, always ready to help.

We like to say that tourists come to our region eager to see animals but go home talking about people. Jeremiah was one of them. Hikers spent only about 30 minutes with him before proceeding to Annah the craftmaker and other adventures, yet many kept him in their hearts.

Despite his advanced age he also made it to our tenth new year’s eve party on Habukomi Island, and made friends with our other partners. Tom Karemire has some back problems and couldn’t attend the funeral; his wife came. Mama Bena couldn’t make it from the other side of the lake.

For Tom, Mama Bena and the rest of the world who couldn’t participate at yesterday’s function, this is our report… To be with Jeremiah through photos at least.

The public began to assemble after midday; funerals always take place in the afternoon.

The family and friends, however, had been around since the body was brought from the hospital, assembled around the compound fire. The previous night there were many men at the fire, while women were in the kitchen preparing food.

The deceased is always buried within the compound, in the banana plantation or in front of the house. Wealthier people build cement thombs in which they place the coffin. Few graves will have a view like Jeremiah’s…

A generator or big batteries are brought to amplify Christian music and speeches. A good speaker from the community runs the event and collects money contributions for the family.

But it’s singing that dominates once the ceremony starts.

Jeremiah was a beloved man who helped many, so people packed his compound and stayed outside of the fence as well. The lady with the white hat is his wife; a daughter and grand daughter are on the other side of the coffin.

Local clergy were there to do their rituals because the family is Anglican, however, they would not pray for Jeremiah as he had never been to the church. Instead, plentiful positive words were spoken remembering his life.

Jeremiah’s photo, taken by one of the Gorilla Highlands Trails trekkers, moved around the public throughout the ceremony. The artificial-flowers-paper-and-celuloid items on the coffin are local wreaths, bought from Kabale Town.

After Jeremiah’s body was lowered into the grave, the public went home but the family would stay around for two more days, providing comfort to the family.

Rest in peace, our partner and friend!

text, funeral photos and video editing: Miha Logar; video footage: Mostafa El Barbari; portrait: Anika Utke; video soundtrack: Tudur Evans

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