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Decorating the Dead: Artistic Ghanaian Coffins

by RichardGoddard June 2013 - last edited August

Attending a funeral in Ghana is a completely different experience to what many in the Western world are used to. As well as periods of mourning and scenes of sorrow, many involve days of upbeat celebration and extremely artistic Ghanaian coffins. Book a flight to Accra to find out more...

 

Particularly outside of the cities, funerals can often be an area’s most vibrant form of nightlife, with some more popular than nightclubs. It’s not uncommon, in rural areas, to drive through villages in the middle of the night and stumble across what could easily be mistaken for a street party, only to find out there’s a decorated, deceased body lying somewhere in the vicinity. They are community events, with host families catering for multiple numbers of guests in addition to those formally invited.
 

Coca- Cola Coffin

Image © Emilio Labrador

 

Passing on in style

The funeral ceremony is not the only element of the acknowledgement of death that many foreigners may find surprising. The Ga people of the Greater Accra region are becoming increasingly famous around the world for their elaborate coffins. Reserved predominantly for those with a particularly high social status, coffin making for the Ga people is a creative art, with those believed to be moving onto a better place given a vehicle in which to do so in style. Ghanaian coffins often represent the deceased’s profession, their passions or their quirks, which are manifested in any which way imaginable, whether a giant beer bottle, a shoe, or an aeroplane. Driving along roads dotted with such workshops, such as the Teshie-Nungua area, these works of art can be seen on the side of the street in all their glory.
 

These fantastic pieces of craftsmanship sell for between $300 and $800, with international collectors and museums paying $2,000 or more for the honour of owning one. It’s an incredible sight and one that reinforces the unique and vibrant mentality of the Ga and Ghanaian people. Here are a few images of some of the most colourful Ghanaian Coffins – perhaps a little inspiration for a slightly more extravagant way to go!

 

Accra coffins

Image © Emilio Labrador
 

 

Chili Pepper Coffin

Image © Rachel Strohm
 

 

Make Mine A Nikon | Accra Coffins

Image © Son of Groucho
 

 

Accra Coffins

Image © Adrian Dutch
 

Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate direct flights to Accra from London Heathrow until 22 September 2013.


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About the author: RichardGoddard

Richard Goddard

Richard Goddard, from London, UK, lived and worked permanently in Ghana between 2009 and 2011, based mainly in Accra and Busua in the Western Region. During this time, he set up the Asabaako Music Festival on Busua Beach, in partnership with Kofi Debrah, a UK Ghanaian also from London. Richard now spends his time between London and Ghana, where he continues to develop the festival alongside partners and volunteers in Accra, Takoradi, Busua and the UK.