‘Fantasy coffins’ like this are commissioned by the relatives of a deceased family member and are part of a relatively new and vibrant tradition in Ghanian art and culture.
The chosen design reflects the trade or ambition of the deceased. For example, a fisherman may have a coffin in the shape of a fish. This coffin is of a kind that would have been made for a shopkeeper, emblazoned with brand names and its lid resembling the corrugated tin roof found on many shops and dwellings. It was made by the Kane Kwei carpentry workshop in the town of Teshie, Accra and was commissioned specially for the Museum in 2010.
Kane Kwei began to make bespoke coffins – abebuu adekai (“boxes with proverbs”) – in the 1950s. Today his grandson continues the business, creating new designs and introducing furniture that utilizes similar materials and techniques. Demand for fantasy coffins has grown to such an extent that there are now numerous carpentry workshops in the Accra region manufacturing them, in particular for the international art market.