to our love, send a coffin of wood
April 29, 2015 8:31 AM   Subscribe

From eagles and robots to wrenches and cruise ships, the artisans of Ghana's Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop ensure decedents will be ushered to the afterlife in meticulously detailed coffins designed to fit the dearly departed's lifestyle, in accordance with Ga-Adangme traditions.

Located in Teshie, a suburb near Ghana's capital city of Accra, Kane Kwei's craft workers have been designing, building, and exhibiting fantasy coffins (abebuu adekai, literally "receptacles of proverbs") for over 60 years.

The studio is currently owned and run by (Seth) Kane Kwei's grandson, Eric Adjetey Anang, who has continued his family's longstanding practice of taking on apprentices a few times a year. Other artists whose careers were inspired or kickstarted by the work of Kane Kwei include Paa Joe, Daniel Mensah, Eric Kpakpo, and Ataa Oko.

More work by Ghanaian abebuu adekai artists:
Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop on Facebook
☆ The Globe and Mail: Ghana's colourful coffins - a gallery
☆ BuzzFeed: 29 Amazing Custom Coffins from Ghana
☆ The coffins, for who, for what? and photo gallery (en Français)
☆ Jack Bell Gallery: The Work of Paa Joe
☆ Coffin exhibition (auf Deutsch)
☆ YouTube: The Master of Coffins, a 2013 documentary on Eric Adjetey Anang
☆ YouTube: KANE KWEI WORKS - Going out in Style
☆ Vimeo: Ataa Oko and the Spirits (en Français, English subtitles)
☆ Atlas Obscura: Buried in a Lion - The Fabulous Tradition of Ghana Figurative Coffins
The buried treasures of the Ga: Coffin art in Ghana, a book by anthropologist Regula Tschumi
posted by divined by radio (14 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Amazing. Thanks!
posted by mondo dentro at 8:43 AM on April 29, 2015

This is the best thing I have seen in two years. The positives really push back the specter and the shadows.
posted by Oyéah at 8:45 AM on April 29, 2015

I'm just here for the Nick Cave reference.
posted by SafetyPirate at 9:11 AM on April 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Now I want a robot coffin. Not for when I die, just to you know, have around.
posted by happyroach at 9:12 AM on April 29, 2015

I am really torn between whether I would want a movie-perfect jaeger (cherno of course) or an 18th century square-rigged triple-master under full sail.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:16 AM on April 29, 2015

I want a fish coffin I could use at the foot of my bed, for blankets.

You could put a lot of familial ashes in one of those, as in a new tradition. I want one!
posted by Oyéah at 9:50 AM on April 29, 2015

wow, I wasn't planning on being buried but holy cow those are cool coffins.
posted by Naib at 9:55 AM on April 29, 2015

The final picture in that German gallery suggests someone wanted to be buried in an elaborately carved (and presumably quite expensive) drum of chemical waste. I would really love to know the story behind that particular commission. Perhaps he wanted to be sure grave-robbers left his body alone?
posted by Paul Slade at 10:06 AM on April 29, 2015

I saw one of these coffins in a warehouse a few years ago (a museum storage area): it was shaped like an enormous red rooster, and I couldn't believe it was actually a coffin. So thanks for this post, now I have better context for what I saw!
posted by suelac at 10:17 AM on April 29, 2015

Additional Wikipedia article... this isn't your red rooster coffin by any chance, suelac?
posted by XMLicious at 10:39 AM on April 29, 2015

Nope, and I saw it in California within the last several years. I'm sure there's more than one...
posted by suelac at 11:12 AM on April 29, 2015

Paa Joe Airplane coffin at the Smithsonian.
posted by gudrun at 6:08 PM on April 29, 2015

I think I vaguely remember seeing these guys on a TV special a while back. My remains will be going wherever the medical school disposes of them, but I bet my sister would love a book or a piano for her eco-burial.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:15 PM on April 29, 2015

Great work, divined by radio -- thanks!
posted by On the Corner at 12:28 AM on April 30, 2015

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