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Meet the First Family of Creative Ghanaian Handmade Coffins

Great Big Story takes a look inside Ghanaian craftsman Anang Kwei’s coffin workshop.

by Nathaniel Ainley
Dec 30 2016, 2:00pm

Screencaps, via

Did you know the word coffin comes from the Latin root cophinus, which literally translates to basket? Coffins have been around for a long time. The Ancient Egyptians used to immaculately decorate coffins/sarcophagi to ensure safe passage into the afterlife. In modern day Ghana, craftsman Anang Kwei performs a similar ritual only on a slightly smaller scale. Kwei and his family make handcrafted custom designed coffins of almost anything you can imagine. Everything from giant fish and birds to guitars and model homes, Kwei’s workshop can turn your wildest dreams into a final resting place or palace.

Kwei was interviewed as part of a short video feature produced by Great Big Story, the studio responsible for stories like this man-made island or this amputee tattoo artist. In the video, Kwei refers to himself as a “fantasy coffin maker.” His work allows customers to honor or memorialize any particular aspect of the deceased’s life. Kwei says, “When a driver dies, the family may want a car-shaped coffin for the deceased. Some are fisherman. The family may request a canoe-shaped coffin.”

Kwei’s father started the tradition of custom coffin making in Ghana 65 years ago, when a chief made a special request to be buried in a coffin the shape of a cocoa pod. According to GBS, although funerals are often perceived as a grim occasion, people in Ghana see them as an opportunity to celebrate the life of those who’ve passed. Kwei’s coffins aren't exclusive to Ghana. His workshop has shipped custom caskets around the world to places like Los Angeles, Denmark, and Russia. Check out the full video below:

To learn more about Anang Kwei and his workshop, head over to their website.

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