The Coffins Of The Ga Tribe In Ghana

The Ga-Adangme, an ethnic group in Ghana, are known for their unique processions and funeral celebrations.

The costs of funeral services have considerably gone up over the years but there was a time when there were little to no cost involved in burial or funerary practices. The Ga-Adangme, an ethnic group in Ghana, are known for their unique processions and funeral celebrations. (Yes, they attach the word celebration to funerals.)

What is notable in the Ga people's funerals is the creation of special coffins for the dead since the 1950's. The "special" coffins are built by highly skilled carpenters. Some of the first carpenters to build the coffins were Ataa Oko and Seth Kane Kwei. The coffins are designed in the form of any kind of object or animal the family of the departed wishes it to be. It should reflect or represent the personality, occupation, or reputation of the person. Here are some of the most memorable and colorful coffins that have been made in Ghana:

  • Shoe coffin - for someone who might have been a shoemaker or avid shoe collector
  • Cigarette coffin - for someone who might have enjoyed cigarettes or had a cigarette business
  • "Air Jordan" coffin - for someone who might have just loved their pair of Jordans
  • Sewing machine coffin - for someone who might have been a seamstress or had a sewing hobby
  • Coca-cola coffin - for someone who might have been obsessed with the sweet drink
  • Sword/chair coffins - for those only with the appropriate status since it represents being royal and priestly
  • Fish coffin - for someone who might have been a fisherman or have loved the sea

Whatever the design of the coffin the family chooses, the carpenters ensure it is beautifully crafted since they believe it will serve as the home to the afterlife. During the coffin's creation, no one is permitted to see the coffin aside from the carpenters. It is hidden until the burial day and families and friends finally get to see the finished product.

With the belief in the afterlife, the Ga people believe their ancestors to be more powerful so they do everything they can (like the fantasy coffins) to make the dead sympathize with them, the living. For that reason, beautiful coffins and celebrations are done to show respect.

The coffins of the Ga tribe have become so popular in parts of the world that some tourists come to Ghana to tour the original fantasy workshop at the Kane Kwai Carpentry workshop on the Teshie-Tema road in Accra. Some of the coffins are even up for sale in the Artists Alliance Gallery, a contemporary art museum that preserves and displays the culture of the Ga people.