My Burier


The Sudanese head dress called an imma, is of the exact dimension and material used for a kafan, the piece of cloth used to wrap a dead body (in the Islamic culture, a dead body is not placed in a tomb, instead it is wrapped in a kafan, laid directly in a grave and buried). Every morning, a Sudanese man leaving his house for the day, dressed in his national clothing, would wrap on his head his tomb (so to speak). In the olden days, African men would leave their houses for weeks on end seeking their livelihood, and the guarantees of safety at that time were minimal. In order not to owe anybody anything when they die, they wrap their resting place enshroud upon their head. Nowadays though, I’ve been told, that the significance of the head dress has been diminished to cultural attire.

The Sudanese however, are not the only people who have memento moris. Arabs in general seem to have a fixation towards death (not only human waste), especially when it comes to extreme emotions; yet another characteristic of pessimism that lingers in our culture.

An extremely loving and tender term of endearment, one that is used between a mother and her son, or a wife and her husband, happens to also be an order or request. See in the Arabic language you can know what is happening to whom and from whom, from the form of the word. The forms of words are standard in most cases, and a single word is sufficient to understand the gender, number of people involved, the tense of it, and whether it was an order or an action.

The loving, tender term of endearment I am talking about is to bury me, or depending on the accent it can be my burier. So my mother, in moments of extreme love and devotion would call me toborni, a request for me to bury her (when she dies). In Islamic culture, a culture that is deeply rooted in the Arabic culture, the males of the deceased are the ones that bury a person. Although males do call their female loved ones toborini, the female request form of the word, it wouldn’t make much sense.

The linguistic morbid side of our culture predominantly lies in burying. Here are a few that come to mind:

My love is my burier, OR, the burier of my bones.

A person who doesn’t care has buried his parents. This can also apply to a very said person, what is wrong with you, it is as if you have buried your parents/family?

A person who is too busy in something, study or work, has buried himself in it.

If you want to order someone aggressively you tell them to go bury yourself and do this.

If you want to shoo someone away you would tell them to go get buried from here.

If a person does not agree with you or a person is arrogant, people will say let him get buried it is not up to him, OR, let him bury himself who does he think he is?

If a person hasn’t been around for a while people would inquire where has he been buried?

A person who can’t go anywhere or is restricted from movement is buried here.

A Syrian variant of toborni would be tishkol aasi, meaning one should garner myrtle, a flower commonly placed on graves, in this case the grave of the speaker. Both tishkol aasi and toborni are used in a way indicating that the speaker hopes to die before the one being spoken to, in fear that the death of the later would be overwhelming, thus the preference would be to die first.

When I was younger when my mother is getting impatient with me, she would make the number three in her hand and wave it at me and scream “I want to bury you!” This is what confused me the most, who will be burying who?

*Thanks to Amal Kaawash for helping me with content of this post.


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