In the spring of 2021 I created a series of illustrations of varying death traditions around the world. This project has been supported by the Arts Promotion Center in Finland.
In Madagascar, the tombs of the dead are opened every few years and the bodies are re-wrapped in fresh burial clothes. The deceased also gets a dance near the tomb while music plays all around. The ritual is called “turning of the bones” and is repeated every few years.
In South Korea it is becoming a custom to turn the ashes of the deceased into beads. The beads vary in color from pink to black or turquoise. They are kept for example in a glass vase at home.
In Finland, a karsikko tree was a tree which contained a set of marks on the tree or on wooden plates hanging from the tree. The marks usually were at least the initials of a deceased as well as the year of death. The tree was located somewhere between a deceased person's home village and the village's burial site. The villagers believed the deceased would try to come back to the village, but the karsikko tree would stop them.
Mexico, Dia de los Muertos. In many parts of South America and in the Caribbean people celebrate "the day of the dead". It is a a famous tradition in which people gather together to remember and honor their deceased loved ones.
In South Korea there is a funeral home where one can create "a book" or more like a box of one's life's personal belongings. When visiting the deceased, the relatives can remember their loved one by looking at the items in the box.
While creating these illustrations, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic was ongoing. I saw an image online of a funeral, where someone attended the funeral via the computer screen. This illustration is based on that image. I thought maybe this happened a lot these days. Many funerals in the past year have been either postponed, not properly arranged at all in some parts of the world, or arranged only to the closest relatives. Many have likely not been able to attend funerals either because of national restrictions, health concerns or travel bans.
Capsula Mundi, created by Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel, is an egg-shaped pod for the deceased. The body of the deceased is placed inside a biodegradable container and buried. A tree, chosen by the deceased prior to their death or by the family is then planted above the burial site.
The Ga-Adangbe people in Ghana build colourful coffins for their deceased. The coffins represent the interests of the deceased. Instead of illustrating a specific coffin in Ghana I illustrated a personal version of my own "fantasy coffin".
The Torajan people of Indonesia keep the mummified remains of their deceased relatives in their homes for years. The children may even sleep in the same bed with the deceased grandfather and the deceased participate in the daily life of the family. The bodies are eventually buried, but even after that they are still regularly cleaned and cared for.
In many parts of the world it used to be normal to have a picnic at a cemetery. This illustration is based on a photo I saw of a cemetery picnic in Greece.
In Florida, US, the company Eternal Reefs offers a memorial site underwater, which also provides a living habitat for the fish.
In the US it's possible to turn the deceased's ashes into a diamond-like jewelry, for example a ring.
In La Paz, Bolivia, more than thirty Bolivian and foreign artists have turned the General Cemetery of La Paz into an open-air gallery of mural art. The murals all illustrate death in various ways.
I have personally visited the cemetery in 2018.