By Paul Ndiho
Have you ever seen a coffin made to resemble a Lobster? How about a lion, a film projector or a Bible. Well these fantasy coffins are uniquely created to capture the essence of the departed – whether a character trait, an occupation, or a symbol of one’s standing in the community.
Ghanaians are well known for their elaborate coffins, from stools a symbol for a chief to big pens a symbol for teachers, journalists and lawyers. This family run business, passed on from generation to generation has developed an innovative approach to making custom coffins.
“We have the film projector also for an old film producer or something like that. And then we have the crab, which is a totem of a particular clan, we have the lobster, which is also supposed to be for chief fisherman. We have the van, I mean the old “trotro” for a driver, the cocoa pot for a cocoa farmer and the lion for a chief, the spider supposed to be an old person, an old man.”
Like Father—like son, Eric Adjetey Anang has been running this family business, which was started by his grandfather Kane Kwei more than 50 years ago – Since then it’s been passed generation to generation. He has developed an innovative approach to making custom coffins.
The tradition of adding designs or sculpturing coffins dates back to Egyptian times. In Ghana, for instance, hand-carved coffins are popular and can be seen as a status symbol, or a way of remembering the deceased’s job or personality.
Eric Anang’s imagination runs wild in his carpentry shop. He’s made everything from a tilapia casket for a fisherman, to this cocoa pod for a farmer.
“The family comes with the idea of the profession of the deceased, so let’s assume the deceased is a driver, they come with the idea of the car the deceased was driving, so if it’s something I have done before, I could suggest let’s try to do a modern car or something.”
Eric says that the technology of building of the most popular coffins is perfectly controlled. Building is more or less complex according to the form of the model, the desired level of details.
. Although one of these sculpted coffins may cost an average year’s salary in Ghana, families and communities often band together to make such a purchase possible. This is believed to protect the well-being of the deceased in the after-world.
“Depending on a piece but actually is between two thousand cedes, when is to be use locally, but when we have to export it we have to us e good wood, we have to trade the wood and many other things and for that we give it at two thousand dollars.”
These fantasy coffins continue as a tradition in Ghana today and have been commissioned by people from around the world and also on display at various museums around the world.
“2013 I sent 24 pieces to Denmark and just this morning I just to understand a museum bought all the 24 pieces. I was there also myself, I built 2 pieces which has also been sold, I sent 20 pieces last year to Russia and they ended up in the museum, just a couple of months ago, like in January or February, I sent one to Florida, which is in a form of a Seahawk.”
Pretty much any object or thing you can think of. They are painstakingly painted, meticulously designed, and even in the face of death, strikingly lifelike.
Paul Ndiho is a Ugandan – American video journalist/Executive producer, Africa Innovations & Technology based in Washington D.C with interests in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. He is passionate about mentorship and developing the next generation of Africa’s young leaders. Email:email@example.com, Facebook: Paul Ndiho and Twitter: @pndiho