Worldly Things: ‘Fantasy’ Coffins from Ghana

8 MARCH - 1 APRIL2006

Office of Commonwealth Games Coordination

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Curator and Producer: Global Art Projects

Ghana coordinator: John Owoo

Global Art Projects commissioned a collection of eight exquisitely carved coffins from the Paa Joe Carpentry workshop on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, in celebration the role of life and death in contemporary Ghanaian life.

Paa Joe took up carpentry in 1960, at the age of 15. He was apprenticed to Kane Quaye, the artisan who first made popular the so called ‘designer coffins’ in the mid-1950s at the time of Ghana’s political transition from the British ruled Gold Coast Colony to independent Ghanaian rule. These objects of amazement are meticulously carved, and painted, and have a special significance to the past life of the deceased. They are an important aspect of the burial ritual, practiced by many of the ‘Ga’ and other Ghana communities along the Atlantic coast. This was one of the festival’s most popular events, with thousands of people coming to see the palm nut, spring onion, running shoe, mobile phone, shark, frilled-neck lizard and chicken coffins.