Peter Matika, Senior Reporter
WORKING with or being among the dead in a place such as a cemetery is perceived as “scary”, a profession riddled with stigma, superstition and strange beliefs.
But for Mr Shadreck Marara, a 45-year-old man from Bulawayo, it is an interesting, challenging and therapeutic job.
Mr Marara, who has been in the profession of cleaning and maintaining graves, says he feels quite fortunate to have created a job for himself in an industry most shun.
Mr Marara has been cleaning and maintaining graves for about a year and half and he says he is glad to have gone head first when the challenge arose.
His company, Grave Care, offers services which include weeding and cleaning of a gravestone area, flower arrangement and repair of gravestones.
“We all have to make ends meet. I am a father and I have to put food on the table for my family,” said Mr Marara.
Looking at some of his work he can turn a mouldy dark coloured gravestone, with illegible engravings lost beneath a thick layer of grime into an entirely new shiny stone.
Mr Marara when doing what he does best, begins by gently scraping away debris with a knife.
He then rinses the surface with a biodegradable solution and scrubs it with a soft brush or cloth.
After another rinse and some drying time, a once run-down gravestone turns into a beautiful one bearing clear engravings.
“It takes much care and time for you to turn an unsightly grave into a beautiful sight,” he narrated.
“When I came into this it was more of a small-time project, where I was cleaning a friend’s grave. I then noticed that there was a great opportunity after a lady approached me and asked me to maintain and care for a departed loved one’s grave.
“This is when I decided to embrace the situation and market myself as a grave caretaker. I started this in August 2020 and have never looked back.”
Mr Marara said he has managed to secure quite a number of clients and believes that he will land lots more in future.
“It takes honesty and you also have to be diligent and careful when it comes to dealing with such issues. The departed are respected and you just have to be honest,” he said.
Mr Marara said his tools are quite simple and include a spade, weed slasher, soft brush, water environmentally friendly detergents and soft cloths.
He mentioned that at the moment his company was still fairly new, but would want to employ and branch to other cities.
“I do engage some people for assistance and pay them on commission if need be. I want to see this grow. I want to create employment for others and this is one field that can do that. I believe I am the only one so far doing this,” he said.
When asked if he feared or had ever experienced anything eerie in his line of duty, Mr Marara who is an entrepreneur and has never worked in a formal set up, said he believes in God and that the dead are people who have departed for good.
“There is absolutely nothing to fear. I am not scared of the dead. This is my hustle after all, why should I fear a dead person? The dead are sleeping and waiting for Jesus’ second coming. The only thing I fear is animals such as snakes that sometimes make burrows near graves,” said Mr Marara.
He said he was aware of the many sayings and myths about being in a graveyard and that he had been warned about working there by some superstitious people.
“One person told me that whenever I clean a grave, I should introduce myself and tell the person in the grave that I was only there to clean and maintain it. Another told me to pray, but I am a firm believer in Christ and I am a Christian. I only arm myself with one thing: my belief in God and Christ as well as a scripture. No weapon formed against me shall prosper… I don’t speak to the dead and I will never do that,” said Mr Marara.
He did, however, mention that he once found a black blanket on a grave he had cleaned.
“There was a black blanket neatly spread on the grave. I didn’t know what was going on so I decided to ask about it. The family said they knew nothing about it and asked me to get rid of the blanket. There are a lot of weird shenanigans that happen here.
On some graves you find different coloured candles that would have been burnt, snuff tobacco, and cloths with different colours. The graveyard is a place not meant for the faint-hearted or those that lack faith,” said Mr Marara, stating that as a human he too does panic but his faith is what leads him.
He said he had also witnessed a number of people performing rituals at gravesites or some talking to their departed.
“Graves need maintenance. You know many people often cannot find where they laid their loved ones because they do not care for their graves. Why would you spend lots of money building a tombstone if you will not maintain the grave? Most graves are destroyed by tiny trees, shrubs and weeds,” he said, advising people to care for their departed’s final resting places.
Article Source: The Chronicle