The historical customers
of the workshop – also the broadest – is that of the
families having decided to acquire a coffin to bury a relative.
Originaly popular among the Ga (people of the region of Accra),
this practice became in less than century a true tradition which
widens lately in Ashanti land (region of Kumasi, north of Accra),
in Ewé land (the East of the country), and to Togo. Once
appraise the decision to bury somebody in an individual coffin,
a deputation of the family goes to the workshop, asks for the
model of its choice, discusses, prices it. A down payment is made
and manufacture can begin. It will take between one and two weeks.
The choice of the coffin
The choice of the model of coffin is most often determined by
the occupation of the deceased. A fisher will be buried in a coffin
in the form of fish or in a fishing boat, a professor in a fountain
pen balk, etc. It also happens that the aspirations of the missing
person are reflected by the coffin which is intended for him:
the plane for instance was never ordered to bury a pilot, but
resides a symbol of distant trips testifying a social success.
Same for luxury cars.
The concerning details are specified in captions accompanying
each of the photographs reproduced in the gallery.
Works dedicated to be buried are fabricated with white light wood
and not very expensive as the wawa or Nyame Dua (Alstonia boonei,
The worry of conservation linked to creations intended for the
exportation, entering collections of works of art, demands the
use of more noble essence, which resist better to parasites, more
hard, as the ofram (Terminalia superba) or African mahogany also
called mahogany tree of Africa (Khaya ivorensis).
In Ghana, the forest is in danger and the government established
quotas on cuts and trade of precious wood as these. Their presence
on the market of Accra is unpredictable and their well brought
Building and assembling
The technology of building of the most popular coffins is perfectly
controlled. For new models, Eric and Cedi lean on photographs
or even on a real copy of the model possibly living as it was
case for the agouti: the family having ordered an agouti coffin
must have provided one of these animals who was in pension in
the workshop for the duration of the manufacture of the coffin
and turned back to the customer at the time of delivery.
Building is more or less complex according to the form of the
model, the desired level of details.
The coffins of cylindrical or approached form (fish, mammals,
fountain pen) are accomplished as a model of subject without worries
of the opening intended to accept the body. This one will be later
The Kane Kwei workshop is also at the origin of an innovation
extremely appraised of the customers, because allowing to economize
on the expense of funeral. Coffins are conceived to be able to
open entirely, allowing to expose the body without having to rent
a bed for these aims as it was until then played.
Once form was accomplished, the coffin will be sanded for a long
time then the defects of wood or interspaces between rooms will
be corrected with the aid of coating. The room will once again
be sanded to acquire a clean uniform and smooth surface to be
Two coats of painting are sprayed. New modifications in coating
are performed, and the coffin is again sanded. The object is now
ready to be decorated by the painter.
Several artists of Teshie are specialized in the decoration of
coffins. Each of them intervenes in several workshops according
to request. David whose interview you can read has his own place
within the workshop premises, gracefully put at his disposal.
Various attachments, more often used for conventional coffins,
can supplement decoration: handles, mirrors, stickers with religious
motives, plastic cloth flowers for inside.
Two tailors established in the workshop are made responsible for
making the satin decoration of the coffin. Coloured cloths will
be able to be used for pieces intended for exportation while coffins
intended to be buried are most often dressed in white.
Packaging and delivery
During delivery to the customer, the coffin is enveloped of kraft
paper or cloth. There are two reasons in it: on one hand, tradition
wants work to be revealed only at the time of funeral, on the
other hand it seems that the police takes a dim view to transport
a coffin on the roof of a car. Then they wrap it.
Eric often assures the delivery of coffins, most often freely,
the customer himself reimbursing him in the best of cases expenses
of petrom. Aware of the relating fragility of his creations on
roads where the pot holes are frequent, he assures the transport
with caution to avoid having to perform modifications consecutively
of shocks or even of falls.