Fantasy coffins

Design coffins from Ghana

They are colourful. They are fanciful. They are spectacular. And they are used for burying the dead. The Ghanaian design coffins – or fantasy coffins – have become a phenomenon that attracts attention all over the world. Many museums of anthropology display the amazing coffins in their collections. At British Museum, two of these coffins hold prominent places in the ethnographic exhibition. And justly so, because the coffins bridge the gap between polar opposites: between life and death, between tradition and change, between past, present and future.

The coffins displayed in 'Fantasy Coffins' were made by the Ghanaian artist and coffin maker Eric Anang at his workshop in the town of Teshie. The coffins were exhibited along with photos of two Ghanaian burials by the Danish photographer Klaus Bo, who has documented burial rituals around the world.

A personal coffin honors the deceased

The way the fantasy coffin is designed is an immediate reflection of the life and status of the deceased. A fisherman will choose to be buried in a coffin shaped like a fish; a truck driver in a truck; a soap manufacturer in a piece of soap. In the 1950s, Ghanaian coffin makers began experimenting for real with the shapes and expressions of their coffins. Since then, design coffins have become popular in Accra, the capital of Ghana, where several workshops now produce design coffins.

'Fantasy Coffins' was a small special exhibition at Moesgaard from October 2, 2014 until January 3, 2015