Never in her wildest dreams did 39-year-old Nadia Pogiso imagine that she would one day work with dead bodies.
But ten years down the line the woman who owns one of the most popular funeral parlours in Okahandja enjoys her job and does it well, or so she says.
Although it was not part of her childhood dream to work at, let alone own, a funeral home, she is glad that she today owns one, as she can put deceased people to their final resting place with dignity.
Pogiso’s Community Funeral Services which is based at Okahandja with a sub-branch in Okakarara started in 2006. “It was a blessing from God,” remarks Pogiso, explaining how she made her debut in the funeral industry.
She heard from people that Avbob was relocating, she explains. “I was not really interested but kind of interested. I called the manager of Avbob and we spoke and it was later decided that I am the suitable person. At that time I was working as a clerk and I left my job,” she narrated how it all started.
The community parlour opened its doors to the public in September 2006.
“First it was very tough. It was tough because at the time I didn’t know anything about dead bodies. I didn’t know anything about funerals but fortunately when Avbob sold the place they also gave me one of their employees to orientate me with the work,” explains the mother of two.
For three months, the former Avbob employee taught Pogiso how to work with bodies.
“The first time I was scared. I was really scared. But after my three months’ training I could work with dead bodies,” she says as her eyes grow bigger.
Pogiso started working on babies. A year later she started working with adults. “I slowly learnt how to work with adults, accidents, cremations. I learnt how to prepare bodies, how to inject bodies, how to do full funerals, how to do old age funerals, how to do private funerals,” explains Pogiso, who is also involved in community home-based care on a part-time basis.
“Sometimes I cry. I cry with the families. Sometimes it’s hard,” she says, when asked how she copes with the seemingly emotion-sucking job.
“But I love my work really. Now I’m not scared of dead bodies anymore. Any corpse can come, whether it’s accident or sickness,” she says. Working with dead bodies has made her value life and also give back to the community, adds Pogiso.
“I really appreciate what I have – now I can put a lot back into the community. Many people in Okahandja are poor. Sometimes people come here and they only have N$1 000 or N$2 000 and then I have to see what to do just for that family to take care of the funeral of the deceased,” says Pogiso.
She says that more than it is a business, working with corpses is a passion and she could not have chosen a better career.
“God says in the Bible there’s a time to be born and a time to die and just like there must be teachers to teach our children there must be lawyers to help us in court, so it is with funeral homes. There must be funeral homes to take care of deceased people.”
Conducting funeral services in traditional attire
She goes the extra mile by conducting funeral services in traditional costumes as per demands of her clients.
Pogiso, who now owns 12 Herero dresses, says that she conducted her first funeral service in a Herero dress when a client whose deceased father was a chief requested her to dress in Herero attire.
“I satisfied them by wearing the dress that she gave me,” she says. Pogiso adds: “She explained that if I wear that dress it’s a sign of respect for her late father. From there people wanted me to dress in their traditional attire while conducting funeral services.”
Many of the community members saw that Pogiso conducted services in traditional attire depending on the deceased’s culture and it has since been her tradition to conduct services in traditional wear.
“When I’m having a Damara funeral they ask me to wear a Damara dress. A month ago I was in the north and they insisted that I wear an Owambo dress and so I did. Maybe that’s why the people like the parlour.”
Respecting people’s cultures and giving deceased people a dignified funeral are what Pogiso always strives for and it has in turn made her popular.
“I have to respect people’s stories because some of them regard me highly and when they come to me they want exceptional service. It’s like if they are at Nadia’s funeral place everything is okay. I am very much popular with the community especially among the Ovaherero. I have 12 Herero dresses, six Damara dresses, three Owambo dresses and one Kavango dress,” she says as she laughs out loud.
Furthermore, Pogiso has learnt so much about the various cultures and has in the process of conducting funeral services also learnt the basics in most Namibian languages.
“Everyone has their own tradition and their own way of preparing the funeral and that is really interesting,” adds Pogiso.