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What is 2 metres long, but looks like a sneaker? You’ve guessed it – a coffin from Ghana

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Posted October 30, 2019

We’re all going to die, so why make a big fuss about it? It is always weird to see how much money, energy and effort people put in funerals. On one hand, it is tradition and a way to pay respect, on another – it is a waste. Anyway, some of those traditions do look mighty impressive, even if still very weird.

Coffins in Ghana are meant to represent what the person loved when he was alive. Image credit: Brooklyn Museum via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0)

Just take a look at these coffins, made in Ghana. Some of them may be shaped like a sneaker, piano, tiger, lion, fish or even a car. They are expensive, but some people believe that they are totally worth it.

You see, Ghana is home of the Ga people, who believe that death is only a passage to another life. Therefore, it is important to make funerals as respectful and as fancy as possible. Also, because people from that “other side” can influence your life on Earth as well. So you want to keep them happy.

Every coffin must be a work of art. Image credit: David Stanley via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

For centuries people in current Ghana used to put little figurines in coffins. Little boats, sculptures and, sometimes, jewelry were thought to keep the dead person happy. But In 1950’s carpenter named Seth Kane Kwei started a trend of fantasy coffins. Instead of putting a little boat in his grandmother’s coffin, he made a big boat-shaped coffin. Other people liked it and the trend caught on.

People believed that the dead person will be happiest if the coffin is shaped like something they loved. That is why some coffins are shaped like smartphones, Mercedes-Benz cars, sneakers and many different things. More traditional shapes include tigers and fishes.

This is a coffin for someone who loved fish. Image credit: David Stanley via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

These coffins are made from wood, but nowadays some plaster or plastic elements are used as well. More luxurious coffins are made for museums. For the matter of fact, a lot of Ghana’s fantasy coffins are going overseas – private collectors and museums are buying them all the time. Those are made from mahogany and other more luxurious materials.

Fantasy coffins can cost anywhere from 3000 to 9000 USD or even more – it all depends on the shape and materials. Some people buy their own coffins and display them in their houses. Others cannot afford to do that and then their relatives have to order a fantasy coffin for them. Making a custom coffin like that takes up to one week.

Old Mercedes-Benz cars are very popular in Africa and, therefore, there are many coffins like this one. Image credit: NdaniTV via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

It is a really difficult thing to make. Not only it has to be artistic and nice-looking, it also has to be functional. Labour is what drives those prices up. Some people believe it is worth it, including people from other countries who order and ship them to US, Europe or Asia. However, in Ghana the trend of fantasy coffins is slowly dying out.

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