Dissertation abebuu.pdf


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Introduction*
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I!stood!back!to!admire!the!Mercedes2Benz,!a!five2door!limousine!with!black!and!white!
interior,!silver!wheel!arches!and!a!customized!number!plate.!I!was!not!in!a!car!
showroom,!but!at!the!London!Southbank!Centre!exhibition!Boxed:'Fabulous'Coffins'from'
UK'and'Ghana.!The!number!plate!read!‘Paa!Joe!GH’,!referring!to!the!Ghanaian!maker!of!
this!Mercedes2Benz2shaped!coffin.!While!the!practice!of!design!coffin2making!began!in!
Ghana,!it!has!become!a!wider!phenomenon,!with!European!museums!commissioning!
coffins!for!exhibitions,!and!a!Nottingham2based!company!attempting!to!create!a!UK!
equivalent.1!Ghanaian!coffin2makers!have!become!internationally!known!craftsmen!
with!the!help!of!websites,!social!media!and!international!‘agents’.2!!
!
!!Scholars!have!considered!these!coffins!mainly!from!an!international!perspective!as!
exhibits!(Burns!1974;!Vogel!1992;!Soppelsa!1995;!Spring!et'al'2001),!yet!several!
academics!refer!to!‘fantasy!coffins’!as!examples!of!African!art!(Barber!1987)!or!in!
relation!to!funerary!practice!(De!Witte!2001;!Lee!and!Vaughan!2008).!Secretan!(1995),!
Bonetti!(2007,!2009,!2009a,!2010)!and!Tschumi!(2008)!acknowledge!the!coffins’!links!
to!the!Western!art!world,!but!also!try!to!understand!their!local!meanings!as!significant!
aspects!of!social!life.!!
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!!Design!coffins!are!known!locally!as!abebuu'adekai!in!the!Ga!language,!translated!as!
‘receptacles!of!proverbs’!(Bonetti!2010).!In!this!study!I!trace!their!temporal!
development,!showing!how!they!are!invested!with!new!meanings!throughout!their!life!
cycle.!These!coffins!represent!a!person’s!status!or!profession;!for!example,!a!fisherman!
may!be!buried!in!a!fish2shaped!coffin,!or!a!drinks!vendor!in!one!shaped!like!a!bottle.!
While!increasing!family!and!personal!status!may!play!a!part!in!ostentatious!funeral!
displays,!many!complex!factors!are!involved,!such!as!moral!obligations!to!kin,!
honouring!the!dead!and!pleasing!ancestors.!!
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1!‘Crazy!Coffins’!in!Nottingham,!like!coffin2makers!in!Ghana,!create!a!combination!of!design!coffins!and!
traditional,!box2shaped!ones.!These!are!displayed!on!their!website:!‘www.crazycoffins.co.uk’!
2!Eric!A.’s!website!‘www.ghanacoffin.com’!lists!his!contacts!in!Albania,!Brazil,!Belgium,!France,!Ghana,!

Italy,!Mauritania,!Nigeria,!Norway,!Poland!and!Russia,!Spain,!UK!and!USA.!
2!Eric!A.’s!website!‘www.ghanacoffin.com’!lists!his!contacts!in!Albania,!Brazil,!Belgium,!France,!Ghana,!

Italy,!Mauritania,!Nigeria,!Norway,!Poland!and!Russia,!Spain,!UK!and!USA.!
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