"I don't go to church, but I believe in God. The church has just become a business; all the pastors drive their big fancy cars. My mom still goes to church."
-Eric Adjetey Anang
The first thing that I am struck by while driving from Accra to Teshie is the vast number of churches lining the roads and the very small number of motorcycles and mopeds on the road; almost every vehicle is either a car or truck. Eric explains that having a motorcycle is considered dangerous and is frowned upon.
We arrive at Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, just off the main road. The front of the open air studio showcases several coffins which were ordered and are now ready to be shipped. One of the coffins is a fish and another is a cocoa pod. Eric's father, Cedi, greets me at the entrance to the wood working studio, then I meet several of the apprentices which are working on a couple of different coffins. Eric explains that there are about seven apprentices currently working in the studio, ranging in age from 18 to 29. Eric is 26.
ABOVE: A Fish Coffin
BELOW: A cocoa pod coffin
The studio is small, approximately 20' by 40'. There is a large stack of wood against one of the walls of the studio. Everything is very simple. One apprentice holds a plank as another hand saws the plank to size. Behind the studio is a large courtyard where three puppies play and where several people carry out everyday tasks. The courtyard is surrounded by living quarters where Eric's family lives. Eric points to a door at the corner of the complex and explains that this is where his grandfather lived before his death in 1992. His grandfather, Seth Kane Kwei, started the tradition of fantasy coffins in Ghana. We then walk to the opposite end of the complex where Charles is sewing fabric together. This is where the inner lining of the coffins are assembled.
Most of the coffins are sent to areas of Ghana outside of Teshie, some are shipped to other African countries, and others are shipped to other parts of the world where they are put into museum and private collections. Last week Eric was in Russia where he made a coffin in the shape of a vodka bottle. The local vodka bottling company purchased this coffin. Each coffin that is commissioned represents the occupation or livelihood of the deceased. The types of coffins are wide ranging: fish for fisherman, hammers for furniture-makers, etc. Some of the coffins symbolize prestige for government officials and people of power. Eric explains that he once recieved an order from the family of someone who was famous here in Ghana. The family insisted that the coffin be an eagle, a symbol of the highest power. Eric turned down the order as he kew that it would be controversial for someone to be buried in an eagle coffin that was not worthy of the honor. Another studio took the commision. Eric said the coffin was destoyed before it reached its destination.
To learn more about Kane Kwei Workshop and the work of Eric Adjetey Anang visit www.ghanacoffin.com