The West African nation of Ghana has become known over the last 50 years for the creative caskets custom-made to reflect a person's trade or interest. The tradition apparently began when a village chief had a sedan chair made in the shape of an eagle by a crafstman named Ata Owoo. A neighboring chief then had one commissioned in the shape of a cocoa pod, but died before it could be delivered, so it became his casket. When an apprentice's grandmother, who had never flown, died in 1951, her family had a casket in the shape of an airplane built to bury her. According to another story, the demand for "fantasy caskets" began when a fisherman was buried in a fish-shaped casket: "Ever since then photographers have been buried in camera-shaped coffins, people who like to drink in caskets shaped like beer bottles, and avid smokers - you guessed it - in cigarette-like wooden coffins." In the ensuing years, caskets have been commissioned in many forms:
angel, antelope, Bible, bull, canoe, car, crab, elephant, hammer, leopard, lion, lobster, mobile phone, pineapple, red pepper, rooster, sewing machine, shallot, shoe, snailCaskets can take a month to build and can cost the equivalent of a year's wages. The only regret that the artists and carpenters of the Ga tribe have is that what they have spent weeks creating ends up underground, where it can't be seen. There are some that won't be buried - 12 by Kane Quaye, who has crafted them for 30 years in his workshop in Accra, Ghana - on display at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas. The Amsterdam arts organization Mediamatic also ordered some caskets, including a customized teddy bear, for exhibit.
Another artisan Joseph "Paa Joe" Tetteh Ashong, who opened his shop Six Foot Enterprise in 1962, explains that most Ghanaians are still buried in traditional caskets, which he also makes. The custom coffins are popular with the wealthy, foreigners who buy them as art, and the just plain eccentric.