Fans of Ivorian singer DJ Arafat opened his coffin Saturday to take photos of the corpse, prompting police to fire teargas after an overnight funeral concert where tens of thousands paid tribute to one of West Africa’s most popular stars.
Following hours of musical homage, tears, and solemn reminiscence at Abijan’s main stadium, events took a dark turn as fans battled police preventing them from entering the cemetery where the singer’s family gave him a private burial.
But several did make into the Williamsville cemetery in Abidjan’s working-class Adjame district, forced open the fresh grave and coffin, and took photos and videos that they shared on social media.
Police fired teargas to disperse the grave profaners, and several people were injured, witnesses told AFP.
“We wanted to see the body of our idol before the tomb was sealed,” said one fan, who did not give a name.
Throughout the night, A-list African stars such as Davido, Sidiki Diabate, Fally Ipupa and Serge Beynaud had sung in memory of DJ Arafat, who died aged 33 on August 12 after a motorbike crash in Abidjan.
“The ceremony was really moving,” said Raymonde Nguessan. “We have lost a great man.”
Another fan, Samuel Kablan, tearfully declared, “Arafat was my life, my source of inspiration.”
Culture Minister Maurice Bandaman conferred on DJ Arafat the national order of cultural merit for “his immense contribution to the artistic radiance” of Ivory Coast.
On Saturday morning, before the private burial, DJ Arafat’s casket was placed at the centre of the 35,000-capacity Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium in Abidjan, drawing wild applause before the mood turned sombre and many burst into tears.
The singer, whose given name was Ange Didier Houon, was one of the Francophone world’s most popular African musicians, considered the “king” of coupe-decale (cut and run) — an Ivorian form of dance music.