Thursday, June 7, 2007


Many Ghanaians are dispatched to the hereafter in a coffin shaped like a lobster, or a chicken, or a bottle of Coca Cola

For the Ga tribe in coastal Ghana, funerals are a time of mourning, but also of celebration. Though Christian, the Ga maintain a strong tradition of animist belief that puts a special significance upon the power of symbols. The Ga people believe that when their loved ones die, they move on into another life and the Ga make sure they do so in style. They honor their dead with brightly colored coffins that celebrate the way they lived.

The coffins are designed to represent an aspect of the dead person's life such as a car if they were a driver, a fish if their livelihood was the sea, a soldier would select a gun-shaped coffin. or a sewing machine for a seamstress. They might also symbolize a vice such as bottle of beer for a heavy drinker or cigarette for a 'chimney' smoker.

An unrepentant heavy drinker has chosen to be buried inside a beer bottle

A polished uterus waits to be picked up by a gynecologist

The coffins cost between $300 and $800 in a country where many live on barely $2 a day.
The fantasy coffin says what a thousand words could not for most Ga people. A majority of the people from the Ga community are illiterate. There are no articles or magazines written about most individuals. Thus they feel that with the provision of a coffin like this, everybody who sees it will know. Buying a good coffin also offers a chance, some believe, to calm an angry spirit, who could wreak havoc from the next world.

A fitting tribute to a remarkable life

International collectors and museums pay up to US $2000 for this elaborate wood craft. The coffins take weeks to shape, sandpaper and polish so as to make the it attractive. After weeks to get the shape complete and then it is in the grave. "It is better to have it in the gallery or museum and then everyone will see it," one coffin craftsman notes.

Why be buried in a boring coffin, when you can get handmade coffins that look like a Mercedes Benz, lobster, onion, shoe, beer bottle, even a cigarette?

Even for those who are athletic, Shoe coffins are in plenty


Professor Howdy said...

Very good posting.
Thank you - Have a good day!!!


Hey Howdy

Thanks for dropping by. This posting and the documentary i watched on this made me think. The most challenging bit of it all when designing the coffins is where to actually place the deceased body.

luihamu said...

Liz i still pass by your blong most of the time,i think when your stated blogging i was the first to comment.

Bado nipo.

Keep it up.

benin mwangi said...


Great post, I have seen those decorative coffins firsthand. They are real works of art and it's so cool to actually see them.

From what I have heard the fellow that started the tradition did so about 20 years ago and now there are several large coffin makers in Accra that follow that same style of making the coffins.

Great post!


@ Luihamu
Habari za kupotea. Nice to hear from you and thank you for your support.

@Benin as beautiful as this coffins maybe this is however a perfect example whereby those who are struggling to make ends meet are willing to spend their limited resources on non essentials. US$300-800 is no easy money to come by in Ghana. Yet a significant group will use all their savings and incur debt so as to pass on in style.

By the way how deep down does one have to dig in order for this coffins to fit in bearing in mind their irregular shapes and sizes.

Besides if I was a crafts man after all this hard work just to see it end up six feet underground to be eaten on by maggots and other bugs will not be something I would be proud of.

saraphen said...

I remember seeing some of these when we traveled to Kumasi a few years ago.