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Updated: 27 April 2015
Coffin (with lid); carved from wood; in the form of Mercedes car; painted white with black wheels, bumpers, door handles and trim; gold grill at front; gold metal hood ornament; license plate reads "RIP 2000"; top of car comes off to reveal cavity lined with white silk; glass in side mirrors.
- Made in: Teshi
- (Africa,Ghana,Greater Accra Region,Teshi)
- Height: 68.5 centimetres
- Width: 85.5 centimetres
- Depth: 219 centimetres
The Ga-speaking people revere the deceased ancestors and give a prime importance to funeral celebrations. Starting from the early 1950s they became renowned for developing a new tradition of beautifully carved figurative coffins. These were inspired by the palanquins carved in the form of eagles which had traditionally been used by chiefs on important occasions. The story says that the new style of coffins originated in Teshie, a fishing community in Accra. It was created in 1951 by two carpenters, Kane Kwei, and his brother Ajetey, who made a coffin in the form of an airplane to bury their grand-mother. It was successful in the community and Kane Kwei developed it further with his apprentice Paa Joe. The artistic coffins became very popular in Ghana and internationally, stimulated by the emergence of new machinery and carpentry workshops and the rise of the newly-emerging middle classes.
Ga coffins are made by specialist carpenters. The carpenter will first make a drawing following a brief from the deceased’s relatives. Families commission coffins representing the life achievements or dreams of a deceased relative, or characterising their personality e.g. an eagle, a car, a plane, a bible, a fish, or a photo camera. Sometimes the deceased will have prepared a design brief during his or her lifetime. Coffins are made of wood and then painted. The deceased's body is washed, dressed, adorned and laid out with the coffin open during the wake. The coffin is then closed and carried to the burial ground.
- Secretan, Thierry. Going into Darkness: Fantastic Coffins from Africa. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994.
- Griffiths, Hannah. Diverted Journeys: The Social Lives of Ghanaian Fantasy Coffins. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 2000
- Tschumi, Regula. The buried treasures of the Ga. Coffin art in Ghana. Bern, Benteli Verlags, 2008
Some mould evident on silk near front of car.
Cost for entire collection.
Africa, Oceania & the Americas
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Object reference number: EAF83582
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