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The fantasy coffin makers of Ghana

We curse and rage at the BBC here, a lot, but you have to admit that this is a great story.

Even Ghana’s director of tourism may have to admit that Accra has its work cut out competing with other tourist destinations in Africa. Yet just outside the capital, is the suburb of Teshi and it is here that tourists are coming to look at a relatively new tradition – the fantasy coffin makers.

So how did this happen?

The story goes that in the first half of last century one Ata Owoo was well-known for making magnificent chairs to transport the village chief on poles or the shoulders of minions.

When Owoo had finished one particularly elaborate creation, an eagle, a neighbouring chief wanted one too, this time in the shape of a cocoa pod. A major crop in Ghana.

However, the chief next door died before the bean was finished and so it became his coffin.

Then in 1951, the grandmother of one of Owoo’s apprentices died.

She had never been in an aeroplane, so he built her one for her funeral.

And a tradition was born.

The only bit of what might be BBC politically correct boringness that I could detect in this report came a few paragraphs before that last quote, where it said:

Many of their clients want to bury loved ones in something that reflects their trade.

Even if that means being buried in a Coca-Cola bottle.

Even? I suppose if you are the BBC, that is the ultimate horror. But, if being buried in an airplane or a car or a cockerel or a cocoa pod is okay, then what on earth is so wrong with being buried in a Coca-Cola bottle? (Not Diet Coke obviously. That would be stupid.)

Something tells me that in these post-Christian times, this might spread to other parts of the world. Our boring British death industry could certaionly do with a shake-up. What kind of giant object would you like to be buried it?


It is good to read some good news coming out of Africa. True, African people are dying, but they are mostly dying of natural causes and are going out in style.

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15 comments to The fantasy coffin makers of Ghana

  • Verity

    Actually, I think this is rather a lovely idea, and very comforting for the survivors, in that “It’s what he would have wanted”. This is wonderful, creative idea and you are right. It’s great to see something original and successful come out of Africa.

    I wish these clever people great luck and if they’re smart, they’ll franchise it pronto, at least throughout Ghana, because it’s going to catch on like wildfire once it starts getting publicity.

    And if any companies from rich Western countries (America will be the first) copy it, it would be nice if they paid the inventors a one-time fee for the idea.

    For me, going out nestled in a cat has its appeal.

  • David Crawford

    For me, it would be a coffin that’s based on a P-51 Mustang — the most beautiful airplane ever made.

    (P-51 Mustang)

  • For when you’ve rock and rolled all night and partied every day:

    Kiss Kaskett!

  • Robert

    I want my body to be turned into a tampon.

  • Denise W

    Are you sure about that, Robert? Don’t you think it would be a bit gross? But then again, if you were dead you wouldn’t know it. Oh, well. Whatever makes you happy.

  • My libertarian impulses drive me to note that, at least in America, there is almost no way in hell that the regulators would let fantasy coffins get off the ground. The regulators are owned body and soul by the funerary industry creating a regulatory environment designed wholly to benefit the business they nominally regulates in the public interest.

    Virtually every attempt at innovation in the funerary industry in the last 50 years has been shot down by those in the industry threatened by the innovation.

  • I can save money by going to Home Depot.

  • Julian Taylor

    Obviously that picture must be part of a government consignment of coffins (preferably for bureaucrats), why else would they make up a white elephant?

  • Dave F

    I want to be buried in a giant gramophone horn. Epitaph: Even in death, he’s got the horn.”

    Anyway I think Timothy Leary has trumped every other stiff: his ashes are whirling around the earth in a satellite.

  • Dimebag Darrel of Pantera/Damageplan, who was shot and killed by a crazed fan recently, was buried in a Kiss Kasket donated by the band (because of a request from DD’s family).

    Novelty caskets are a good idea and I am sure there is a market for them. (Well lets face it, if there weren’t Kiss would have nothing to do with them.)

  • Kofi

    I am not sure that anyone, American or otherwise would like to see this practice arriving in the west. If you really do want the full story visit an actual Ghanaian funeral – from start to end, wake through to burial. Oh, and try your very best to leave your social-anthropologist head at home.
    They can be (and usually are) rather undignified affairs. (Would you like your formaldehyde-laden stiff of a body left in a mortuary for a year whilst cousin Bob and Aunty Emma argued over whether you should be buried in a few planks or a hardly elaborate cockerel?).
    In countries where there is little partying and lots of dying going on, unfortunately funerals become *the* party. While I wouldn’t mind myself going out with a smile, there is a lot to be said for the rapidity with which muslims for example are required to dispose of the bodies of their dead. Or for the serenity and finality of eastern-style cremation.
    If you are going to have a party, have it, but don’t make a mockery of my now dead body by exposing it to the elements months after my death for up to a day before my actual burial. Then after a night of rather drunken frivolity place it in a rather garish and poorly designed pod in the shape of an animal, utensil, fruit or tool which in real-life is often the butt of disdainful jokes. And then to cap it all, parade the said pod in a noisy, drunken, procession all up and down the village road for all to see, in a way that you’d never dare to do were I alive, before finally giving me a reprieve by sticking me in the ground for good.
    No thanks. Simple, dignified and respectful ceremony for me please, this is the last time you’ll be seeing me, I’d like you to remember it as a nice occasion. Not a joke.


    what, where and exactly how would I receive a coffin here in the U.S.A?

  • I am doing a school project on fantasy coffins and if anyone has some good websites on them I could use them!! Thx!

  • I am doing a school project on fantasy coffins and if anyone has some good websites on them I could use them!! Thx!

  • I am doing a school project on fantasy coffins and if anyone has some good websites on them I could use them!! Thx!