Fantasy Coffins

Trip Start Mar 11, 2005
Trip End Mar 27, 2005

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Flag of Ghana  ,
Sunday, March 13, 2005

Thanks to my favorite show, Lonely Planet (or Pilot Guides, depending on what they are calling themselves that day) I knew that I wanted to visit the coffin makers shops in Teshie-Nungua. The driver delivered us to the first shop, and we entered through a courtyard of goats, chickens, children and women cooking and up the stairs to the carpenter's "showroom" where he proudly demonstrated his wares and shared his photo album with us of his creations. These were not quite the coffins I had in mind. Most of them were garish versions of the usual ones you would see at a Canadian funeral, with a few unique ones. After giving them the customary dash (tip) the driver said he would take us to another site. Now this is what I was thinking of! As we were going up to the shop, some children in the yard called out to us - Obruni! I had read about being called this, which means white man. I quickly asked the driver how to say black man and then repeated to the children Obibini and they all laughed uproariously - obruni made a funny joke! This place - Paa Joe's - had some really neat coffins. You can read the whole story if you Click here to jump to more info on the Fantasy Coffins Custom coffins started as tradition with the Ga people who believe that by honoring the deceased in proper fashion it would grant spiritual favours for the family left behind. Each coffin is the centerpiece of the funeral. The coffin design reflects the personality, career or achievements of the dearly departed. You might have a huge fish for a fisherman, a cocoa pod for a farmer, an airplane for a pilot etc. One thing that is never done however, is to create one of these coffins for a child, nor can there be any "false representation" such as burying an athlete in a pineapple - he would be buried in a shoe for instance. The cost of a fantasy coffin is easily one year's salary in Ghana. I could order one for about $1,000 US. On hand in the workshop just happened to be an Air Canada airplane - not sure if it was pre-ordered, but I was happy at that point to have KLM on my return tickets. One coffin was a Nokia cell phone and inside the coffin was the message that said "Leave Voice Message". I almost bought a small fish replica for 200,000 but the "salesmen" were so busy pushing them in my face that I ended up with none. Most coffins usually take about 3 months to carve. Many families will put off the funeral until the coffin is finished. When there is an unexpected death, for example from a traffic accident, some coffins can be finished in two weeks. In Ghana funerals are such productions, it would take that long to get the plans in place anyway.
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