THE CROWDS OUTSIDE THE CITY MORTUARY START FORMING SHORTLY AFTER DAYBREAK. It’s Sunday morning, a time in Lusaka, Zambia, once devoted to observing the sabbath, not burying the dead.
As the sun rises, a line of traffic builds up, mostly pickups and small trucks bringing mourners, pickaxes, and shovels. there’s sharp competition for gravediggers; the main cemeteries are full, and event the new ones are running out of space. Shipping containers, used as makeshift coffin and wreath stores, clog the sidewalks. In this impoverished southern African country with a 60 percent unemployment rate, the only boom industry is death. But a growing number of families, who’ve buried too many relatives, can no longer afford shop-bought coffins and must construct their own. One anguished father, too poor even to rent a vehicle for a few hours, arrives on foot carrying a handcrafted pine box for a child.
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