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Business News of Sunday, 7 February 2016

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Designer coffin makers seek bigger market

They are described variously as designer, fantasy or figurative coffins and have been made and marketed, mostly from the Greater Accra Region, for decades but makers of the coffins are now vigorously seeking manufacturing bases and more clients further inland.

The designer coffins are functional objects made by specialised carpenters but are also considered real works of contemporary art from Ghana.
Eric Kwei is one of the designer coffin makers.

Emulating his legendary grandfather, Kane Kwei of Teshie in Accra who is credited with inventing the phenomenon, he has been working hard for a larger customer base in this country.

Speaking to The Mirror in an interview, Kwei said he has recently been targeting territories inland, especially the Ashanti Region, where tradition is valued.
He sees Kumasi as a place where culture and art are highly appreciated and has decided to open a workshop there to showcase his work.

“Considering the way people in the Ashanti Region cherish tradition and their well-known fondness for befitting funerals, I believe we will get a fair patronage when we open a branch in Kumasi,” he explained.

Designer coffin makers often create works in the shape of spectacular objects.
Typically modeled in the image of consumer objects and animals, the forms represent the aspirations and values of intended users and sometimes, their concept of an afterlife.

Objects that Kwei and his team of carpenters have modeled coffins on include ballpoint pen, Bible, bottle of beer, bottle of Coca Cola, canned mackerels and tomato, cinema projector, I-Phone, piano, aeroplane, machine gun and wad of banknotes.

“We make the coffins in a way that people can look at them and immediately know what the persons being buried in them accomplished on earth,” Kwei said.

Unlike Ghana where the designer coffins are for the basic function of burial, the situation is different in Europe and America where the coffins are regarded more for their artistic value.
Kwei, therefore, holds regular exhibitions and he claims they are well-patronised.

At one of those exhibitions in the US, he made a gun-shaped coffin which was broken into two before an audience.

“The gun was symbolic of violence in the world and breaking it into two signified a quest to end violence everywhere,” he explained.
Last year, he created a fish coffin to address the issue of water pollution which was showcased in a museum in France.

According to him, coffins shown at art exhibitions in Europe and America cost more than 10 times their value in Ghana.