• Kenya has 18 cremation centres, with Kenyans of Asian origin being the ones who use the facility the most.
  • Cremation for an adult can take between five an six hours, after which the family collects the ash.
  • As the demand for Cremation grows the need for qualified cremation technicians is also growing.

In October 2011, Wangari Maathai, Africa's first female Nobel Peace laureate, was cremated at the Hindu Crematorium in Kariokor according to her wishes.

She remains the first prominent Kenyan of African origin to have chosen the process.

While Kenyans and Africans at large are yet to embrace cremation as a means of paying their last respects to the dead, some are starting to accept it.

A member of the Kenya Forest Service salutes the late Wangari Maathai next to the hearse. (VOA)
A member of the Kenya Forest Service salutes the late Wangari Maathai next to the hearse. (VOA)

Kenya has 18 cremation centres, with Kenyans of Asian origin being the ones who use the facility the most. Cremation fee for an adult is Sh16,800 ($168), Sh14,800 ($148) for a child and Sh12,800 ($128) for infants. Cremation for an adult can take between five an six hours, after which the family collects the ash.

As the demand for Cremation grows the need for qualified cremation technicians is also growing.

One such technician is Nderitu Maina, who joined Langata cemetery some nine years ago.

Also read: Bob Collymore joins growing list of high-profile Kenyans who have defied societal expectations and choose cremation over burial

Workers refurbish the cremation chamber at the Langata crematorium. (Mediamax)
Workers refurbish the cremation chamber at the Langata crematorium. (Mediamax)

The former trained secretary, who once worked at Karen Hospital has since become the crematorium technician at the cemetery after developing an interest in cremation at the graveyard.

“Here we are trusted to do three jobs. We bury, we exhume when called upon to, and we cremate,” he told the Star, a local publication.

Among the three jobs, Nderitu says his favorite is cremation. He is dedicated to that duty and performs it with unmatched dedication.

“What I enjoy most is the point where I turn the body around as it burns. Then the crushing of the bones to get the ashes. It is out of this world,” he said.

Nderitu Maina who is in charge of Langata cemetery and doubles up as a crematorium technician. (The Star)
Nderitu Maina who is in charge of Langata cemetery and doubles up as a crematorium technician. (The Star)

He says he loves his job so much that he would rather be dead than do any other job.

“I love what I do so much and I wouldn't exchange it for any other job,” he said with a broad smile.

Nderitu says he has since lost count of the number of bodies he has cremated. He says while he respects his customers (the deceased), he finds immeasurable joy in the job.

A file photo of graves at a section of Nairobi's Langata cemetery. (The Star)
A file photo of graves at a section of Nairobi's Langata cemetery. (The Star)

So much at ease is he among the dead that he sometimes brings his children along.

“I have come here with my children on several occasions, and they understand the kind of job I do. They take it just like any other job,” he said.

Ironically, Nderitu does not want to be cremated upon his death.

“I don't want to be cremated. I want my family to have a grave that will serve as a memory of me. Graves console at times,” he said.