Object type




Place Associated

Africa, West Africa, Ghana, Greater Accra Region, Pobiman (place manufactured)




wood, textile, foam, brass


overall (coffin): 1066 mm x 2840 mm x 650 mm; overall (stand): 770 mm


Painted fantasy coffin in form of a pink fish with protruding fins and tail. Lined with pink satin and red polycotton, sparkling orange braid and yellow foam. On blue painted wood stand. Made by Joseph Tetteh Ashong, also known as Paa Joe. Fantasy coffins in the form of lifelike birds, reptiles, cars, aircrafts, ships, mobile phones, cocoa pods, shoes, vegetables and fruits from Ghana have become iconic works of contemporary African art. They are also deeply rooted in the culture of the Ga people, who call them Abebuu adekai or boxes with proverbs, where the tradition originates. The Ga people live in the south-east coast of Ghana, including Accra the capital city. They revere their ancestors and give great importance to funeral celebrations. The earliest recorded example was made in 1951 by two carpenters, Kane Kwei and his brother Ajetey, who made a coffin in the form of an aeroplane to bury their grandmother. Paa Joe is the nephew of Kane Kwei and at the age of 16 began a 12 year apprenticeship in his uncle’s workshop in the coastal town of Teshie. He started his own business in 1976 in Accra. Since 2008, he has been working with his son Jacob in Pobiman, outside Accra. 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 social status, life achievements, aspirations or dreams of a deceased relative, or that characterise their personality. Sometimes the deceased will have prepared a design brief during his or her lifetime. Therefore if a fisherman dies, his coffin may be shaped like a fish. Coffins are made of wood and then painted. The maker of the coffins on offer always tends to use a hard wood, probably limba (Terminalia superba), which is local to Ghana and is being harvested sustainably.

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In storage

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