Watermelon Coffin: Insight Into Ghana’s Fantasy Coffins

A Brief Insight Into Ghana’s Fantasy Coffins

Fantasy coffins are a form of custom-made casket that is particularly widespread in Ghana’s Greater Accra Region, and they are designed to represent the importance and personality of the departed.Watermelon Coffin: Insight Into Ghana's Fantasy Coffins

In Ga, fantasy coffins are also known as proverbial coffins, abebuu adekai, or “okadi adekai.” Kane Kwei (1922-1992), known as the “Father of Fantasy Coffins,” and Joseph “Paa Joe” Ashong (b. 1947), one of the most famous coffin manufacturers of his time, popularised them.

The Ga people believe that ornate coffins have an impact on how the departed live in the hereafter.

They believe that life continues in the afterlife in the same manner as it did in the physical world and that ancestors can have an impact on the lives of the living.

As a result, surviving relatives do everything they can to guarantee that a deceased person is sympathetic to them as soon as possible.

In certain parts of Nigeria, the size and cost of the burial are determined by the deceased’s social rank.

However, in Ghana, the importance, success, and use of an exclusive casket during a burial, which will only be seen on the day of the funeral, reflects the deceased’s social position.

Coffins frequently depict the deceased’s occupations, but specific forms, such as a sword, stool coffin, or certain animals, indicate royal, priestly insignia, and clan totems. As a result, only specific persons, such as monarchs, priests, and family leaders, are permitted to be buried in such coffins.

The use of these coffins among the Ga people may be dated back to the early twentieth century, to Ga chiefs and priests. However, from the 1950s, Christians began to incorporate it into local funeral customs.

The Business Of Caskets

“We are not thrilled when people die,” says Paa Joe, who has been in the industry for more than 50 years. “It’s a pity.

We feel like giving them a proper send-off, like continuing what they were doing while they were alive because we think life goes on after death.”

In any event, fantasy coffins are big business in Ghana, especially for Kane Kwei and Paa Joe, who have turned it into a family company.

On a good month or a terrible month, depending on who you ask, the coffin builders can build at least ten coffins for clients.

Customers from more than 20 nations have ordered and purchased these coffins from workshops around Ghana, according to the BBC, while woodworking students from South Korea, Russia, the United States, and Denmark have been to Ghana to master the skill.

According to Paa Joe, fantasy coffins can cost $5,000 to $15,000 for overseas buyers who mostly want them for display in museums, etc. This is due to the fact that these coffins are composed of heavy woods such as mahogany for durability and to protect against cracking and insect infestations.

Coffins for burial, on the other hand, are often built of softwood and cost between $400 and $1000, especially for local consumers. The designs are chosen by the deceased’s relatives and span from aeroplanes to vehicles to canons to animals and farm products.

Paa Joe and Kane Kwei’s fantasy coffins were presented for the first time in 1989 at Les Magiciens de la Terre at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, achieving international attention.

In fact, the fantasy coffin family company piqued the interest of late former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former US President Jimmy Carter, who allegedly acquired two of his dream coffins. In 1998, former US President Bill Clinton also paid a visit to Paa Joe.

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