Fantasy coffin-maker with cell phone coffin

The Fantasy Coffins of Ghana

Yesterday I was taking pictures in a cemetery and I got into a conversation about coffins. And suddenly, I remembered: In 2014 I met an artist in Ghana who builds “fantasy coffins” that look like cell phones and minibus taxis and crabs and three-headed dogs. And I NEVER BLOGGED ABOUT IT.

Fantasy coffin-maker with cell phone coffin
The coffin artist and his Samsung coffin. Sadly, I’ve lost my notes about the visit and I don’t remember his name. But I’m grateful to him for allowing me to take photos in his shop.

How is it possible that I visited a FANTASY COFFIN SHOP nearly three years ago and never blogged about it? I suppose I was busy back then, and I wasn’t happy with the photos I took of the coffins. Nonetheless, this is inexcusable.

Full-Length ell phone coffin
A full-body shot of the Samsung coffin.

The quick back-story: I was in Ghana visiting my friend Michelle, who lived there at the time. We were on the road, headed back to Accra from the Cape Coast, when we spotted Serious Wood Works. I asked our driver to pull over.

Serious Wood WorksA crappy cell phone photo of Serious Wood Works.

Fantasy coffins have been a thing in Ghana for the last few decades. The outlandish coffins evolved through the traditions of the Ga people of southern Ghana, who believe in sending their dead into the afterlife in style, in a coffin reflecting the person’s life on earth. People commission the artists to design and build their coffins before they die.

These coffins are not just works of art; they are actual coffins that are actually used to bury people in the actual ground. (Read more about fantasy coffins on Wikipedia and in this great article in the Guardian.)

I had heard about the coffin artists before I came to Ghana but didn’t have time to seek one out. So when we accidentally happened upon this one by the side of the road, I could barely contain my excitement.

Snake coffinInside the coffin workshop. There’s some kind of serpent, the phone, a three-headed dog, a crab, some Ghanian money, and a couple of house-coffins. The weird things hanging from the ceiling are funeral wreaths.

Three-headed animal coffinA better look at the three-headed dog. A spotted three-headed dog with horns.

Minibus taxi coffinMy favorite shot of the visit — a taxi in progress. I think the artist told me that the person who ordered it owns a taxi company.

At long last, I’ve got this coffin-monkey off my back. I saw a cell phone coffin in Ghana and it was amazing.

Read the rest of my Ghana posts here. I’ve still got a few untold stories from this trip — maybe I’ll tell another one next year.

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19 Comments

  • Reply Jaina January 11, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    I remember seeing these featured on a TV show once upon a time. I *think* it was Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. I think! They’re amazing! Definitely a memorable way to go down…

    • Reply 2summers January 11, 2017 at 10:29 pm

      Definitely right up Bourdain’s alley 🙂

  • Reply Brenda Reiss January 11, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    The Seattle Art Museum has a terrific Mercedes Benz coffin with fancy upholstery in its great African collection. You can see it on their website

    • Reply 2summers January 12, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Cool, I’ll check it out!

  • Reply autumnashbough January 12, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I think I want to be turned into a tree when I die. But if I handpicked a fantasy coffin? Maybe a kayak, or maybe a winter sleigh.

    What would you pick?

    • Reply 2summers January 12, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      After I published this post I was thinking I should have added a line about what I would want my fantasy coffin to be and asking others what they would want. But anyway I thought about it and I’d definitely want a hadeda: http://2summers.net/2014/04/03/screech-of-the-hadeda/

      • Reply autumnashbough January 12, 2017 at 5:50 pm

        I read your post on the hadeda! Do they sound as awful as peacocks?!

        • Reply 2summers January 12, 2017 at 6:01 pm

          Hmm, not sure. I haven’t heard many peacocks. But check out the YouTube video in my post.

          • autumnashbough January 12, 2017 at 6:24 pm

            It “doesn’t exist anymore.” 🙁 I even tried to find the ringtone someone mentioned in that post and it was gone also.

          • 2summers January 12, 2017 at 6:25 pm

            Oh NO! I swear I watched that video fairly recently. Well thanks for telling me. It was the best.

          • autumnashbough January 12, 2017 at 6:26 pm

            If I find a new one, I will send a link!

          • 2summers January 12, 2017 at 6:30 pm

            Found it! https://youtu.be/ErhMjSevu14

          • autumnashbough January 12, 2017 at 6:42 pm

            Watching it! Their call reminds me of crows more than anything else. A peacock is waaaaayyy worse and more annoying.

          • 2summers January 12, 2017 at 7:03 pm

            Yeah, I’ve never really thought the calls are that bad. The scary part is that they’ll stand very quiet and still in the garden and you won’t know they’re there. Then you make a noise, startle them, and they suddenly take off with a loud screech and it’s terrifying.

          • 2summers January 12, 2017 at 6:26 pm

            Maybe there was a copyright dispute or something.

  • Reply Lani January 14, 2017 at 9:25 am

    OH
    My
    God.

    Yes.

    If I was to be buried, cremation for me, baby! I’d totally want a fantasy coffin. I love the sense of humor, the lack of sterness despite the fact that the buyers maybe entirely serious, but how can they be? They are ordering a crazy coffin!

    Yes.

    • Reply 2summers January 16, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Yes. Clearly Ghanaians have great senses of humor 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca February 27, 2017 at 3:53 am

    I saw this on TV once! How cool that you actually got to see them in person. Those guys have some serious skills.

    • Reply 2summers February 27, 2017 at 8:35 am

      I know, it’s crazy. Such an interesting art form.

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