WHEN WE TOLD THE GROUP ABOUT THE TESHIE-NUNGUA COFFINS, THEY WERE A BIT SKEPTICAL but game to play along.
These aren’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill coffins but a special tradition of coffin-making that dates back centuries in this suburb of Accra. The artisan trade is passed down through the family structure and is regarded with great respect by others in the community. The wood is carved from a particular type of tree that grows in Ghana and has good weight and texture for coffin construction and painting. The wood is then whittled into giant and marvelous shapes.
As a way to celebrate the deceased, the coffin is shaped into a large, colorful object that suggests the person’s trade while living. A fisherman would receive a coffin in the shape of a fish, a fruit seller’s coffin could be a pineapple, a photographer’s would be a camera. The coffin makers even create huge drink cabinets for bars in the shape of a bottle of coke or Guinness beer.
The EBC group received a history lesson on the Teshie-Nungua coffin tradition and toured a showroom of already-made coffins. Additionally, the group was allowed to witness and photograph the carpenters as they whittled large tree stumps into different configurations–an ice cream cone (dessert seller), a cow (cattle or dairy farmer) and a cell phone (salesman).
To see more, check out this video of our tour of the Teshie-Nungua Coffins: