Feature: Young Ghanaian carpenter carries on tradition of making stylized coffins

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by Xinhua writer Xu Zheng

ACCRA, March 29 (Xinhua)– Coffins in Ghana could not only be boxes that contain the deceased but also be artworks that vary in multiple styles, a unique way for people to commemorate their beloved ones.

Lying in bustling downtown Accra, capital of the West African country, a coffin workshop with an exhibition of wooden carved coffins in the shape of a bird, a hen, and even an apple, projected an air of relaxation.

“The coffin designs are mostly related to the profession (of the dead) when they are alive because we believe what you do in life, you have to continue in your afterlife, that is why we do it,” said Lawrence Anang, a 22-year-old carpenter of the workshop.

“Maybe for a (deceased) teacher, we design a book or pen, a driver would probably go in for a truck, or maybe the car he drove before he passed away, while an apple could be for an apple seller or farmer,” he added.

Despite sweat soaking his shirt and shorts under scorching sunshine, Lawrence concentrated on polishing a newly-made coffin. After completing high school, Lawrence has opted to stay in the workshop before going to college to burnish his carpentry skills.

“To design a coffin, we draw a pattern first, (based on) what you want to build, then we take measurements and cut the wood according to it, and shape it,” said Lawrence.

“The work never bored me,” said Lawrence, adding from creative design to coffin painting, he is now capable of dealing with customized orders.

Although it is somehow a pity that the delicately-carved coffins will be buried underground very soon, Lawrence said they still want to do their best to make the coffins attractive to everyone in order to show respect to the family and the dead.

Around 70 years ago, Lawrence’s grandfather Seth set up the coffin workshop. He made the first coffin in the shape of an airplane for his late mother, who had a dream of flying in an airplane but never came true before she passed away.

Lawrence’s father inherited the traditional family skill of coffin-making, and gradually established himself as one of the leading coffin-makers in Ghana.

Being “the third generation” of the family career, Lawrence and his brothers now aspire to make a difference by promoting Ghanaian coffin arts.

The industry has evolved over the years as people’s demands for stylized coffins are on the rise, which has also attracted more makers to join in the lucrative business.

According to Lawrence, the workshop has even lured many foreign customers, who have a huge interest in purchasing coffins for art exhibitions in museums abroad.

“I will make sure my children also get to know (the business), it is a very unique and nice thing to learn,” said Lawrence, adding that he is confident that the traditional skill will be inherited from generation to generation. Enditem

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