Ghana’s Fantasy Coffins

by K-Dean

The collection on display at the National Museum of Funeral History represents the single largest collection of Ghana’s Fantasy Coffins from the workshop of Kane Quaye outside of Ghana.

For the Ga people who live in Ghana, funerals are a time of mourning but also celebration. They believe when a person dies they move to another life. They want to celebrate and honor their loved ones by sending them off in a brightly colored, unique coffin that suits their personality. The Ga carpenters have become quite famous for the coffins they build, they even export coffins to the United States, Canada, Belgium, Spain and South Korea to be displayed at international exhibitions. The coffin is designed to represent an aspect of the deceased’s life, such as a fish if they spent their time out at sea, or a tortoise for a lawyer, because they moved slow but made things happen. The fantasy coffins are expensive and can cost what an average family earns in a year.

The business began in the 1950s by a man named Seth Kane Kwei. He used to build palanquins, which were used to carry tribal chiefs at traditional festivals. One chief ordered a palanquin shaped as cocoa pod, but died before the festival and was buried in it instead. Not long after that, Kwei’s wife died. She had always wanted to travel, but never got the chance. He decided to build his wife an air plane coffin so she could get her final wish, and travel after death. He began to get attention for these creations and started up his

A hunter or someone powerful, such as a tribal dignitary, would select a “leopard” coffin.

own workshop. There are currently four workshops in the region.

These coffins have picked up the name “fantasy coffins”. They can be seen at the high street in Teshi, Eastern Accra, where many carpenters work in this line of business.

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