Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Ghana's incredible coffins: Fish, bananas and buses

By Catriona Davies for CNN
  • Some Ghanaians are choosing to buried in coffins shaped like fish, chickens or pianos
  • Ghanaian Eric Adjetey Anang says he has made 200 to 300 novelty coffins this year
  • Some designs are symbolic, others reflect the deceased's profession
  • "A chicken coffin would be highly symbolic for an old lady who had many children," said Anang

(CNN) -- When you depart this earth, would you make your final journey in a giant chicken, fish, tortoise or hammer?

Enough people would to make novelty-coffin maker Eric Adjetey Anang and his apprentices very busy men.

Anang is the third generation of his family from Teshie in Ghana to run Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, making bespoke novelty coffins in just about any shape -- from cars to pigs to snails to pianos.

Their coffins have become so popular that Anang says he has made between 200 and 300 so far this year -- for Ghanaians, for export to countries including the United States, Canada, Belgium, Spain and South Korea, and to display at international exhibitions.

Anang told CNN the business was started by his grandfather Seth Kane Kwei in the 1950s, almost by accident. He made palanquins, also known as litters or sedan chairs, that were used to carry tribal chiefs at traditional festivals.

Anang's five most popular coffins
1 Cocoa Pod
2 Fish
3 Bible
4 Eagle
5 Public bus (known as a tro-tro)

One chief, who had ordered a palanquin shaped as a cocoa pod, died unexpectedly before the festival, so he was buried in the palanquin instead.

Anang said: "Soon after that my great grandmother died. She was always dreaming of travel, but she never got a chance to do it, so my grandfather made her an airplane [coffin] so she could travel after death.

"The third fancy coffin was for a chief fisherman who was buried in a canoe. By then, he was getting a lot of attention and more people came to him to commission coffins for their relatives."

Some apprentices who trained at Kane Kwei have also set up their own workshops, so there are now four in the region, according to Anang.

In our traditional beliefs, these coffins will transport you into the afterlife.
--Eric Adjetey Anang
  • Ghana
  • Africa
  • Design

When he finished high school five years ago, instead of going to university Anang decided join his father in the family business, which he runs with the help of eight apprentices.

Now 25, Anang says he has never been busier. He has been invited to be part of the Third World Black Festival in Dakar this December and will take up a five-week residence at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland early next year.

Describing the stories behind some of the coffins, Anang said: "Some of the designs are very symbolic, such as a chief or lawyer might have a tortoise or snail because they move slowly but always get to their destination.

"A chicken coffin would be highly symbolic for an old lady who had many children. Others choose coffins relevant to their occupation, so a fisherman would have a fish, a cocoa farmer would have a cocoa pod and a tomato seller would have a tomato.

"I recently did a piano and a spanner [wrench] for a couple in the Netherlands because she was a piano teacher and he was a mechanic.

"In our traditional beliefs, these coffins will transport you into the afterlife."

Other coffins Anang has made include a gas pump for the manager of a service station, a pen and notebook for a teacher and an eagle for a tribal chief.

Anang's grandfather was buried in a simple coffin because he was baptized a few years before his death and the unconventional coffins were seen as un-Christian.

However, Anang said he was determined to have a fancy coffin even if he is baptized.

"I would choose a plane or a hammer, as a symbol of what I do," he said.

What coffin design would you choose to be buried in? Leave your comments below.