In Ghana in West Africa, people like to be buried in style, often in elaborate coffins that symbolize the life of the deceased. For example, a businessman might have a huge shoe coffin, or a pilot may have a coffin that looks like an airplane.
When you join one of our volunteer programs in Ghana, you will undoubtedly see coffin makers on the roadside doing their thing.
Paa Joe is Ghana’s most prolific coffin artist and, after five decades in the funeral industry producing some of the world’s most extravagant designs, his work is being celebrated in a major exhibition in Accra.
“People celebrate death in Ghana. At a funeral, we have a passion for the person leaving us – there are a lot of people, and a lot of noise,” says Jacob, 28, who has worked with his father for eight years.
Far from seeing their work as morbid, Jacob says the coffins are celebratory and reflect west African attitudes to death. “It reminds people that life continues after death, that when someone dies they will go on in the afterlife, so it is important that they go in style.”
Joe’s creations have attracted high-profile fans: Jacob recalls visits from Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, and the ex-US president Jimmy Carter, who reportedly purchased two coffins. Bill Clinton also stopped by during an official state visit to Ghana in 1998.