Ghanaian “Fantasy Caskets”

While the idea of being buried in a casket spans multiple societies, Ghanaians have put a modern twist on this tradition. “Fantasy coffins,” as they have been dubbed by reporters, are caskets shaped like something relevant to the person being buried. From cars to animals to mobile phones or even a camera, Ghanaians are requesting increasingly diverse casket shapes. Just what do these unique caskets represent? For some families, the casket shape represents what the person loved to do- a pineapple shaped coffin for a man who grew pineapples, one that is fish shaped for a fisherman, etc. Others can represent some sort of ambition- a woman who had never flown before was buried in a casket shaped like a plane. The choice of casket design can be a reflection of status, with some being shaped as luxury cars or other high end products. Of course, some people choose a more religious design. One carpenter in Accra told BBC reporters one of his most popular designs is the Bible.

Robot casket

An example of a “fantasy casket” shaped like a robot. Photo credit: “Robot casket” by sshreeves licensed by CC 4.0

While the casket designs may seem lighthearted, Ghanaians still take death very seriously. By purchasing an elaborate casket, it is a way of showing respect for the family member who has passed. Also, the price tag of these custom made caskets is very high, starting at around 1000 Ghanaian cedi or approximately $250; many Ghanaians make this much in a year. Casket design can also be a point of contention among the family members of the dead if the deceased never left a clear indicator of what they would like their casket to be shaped liked, with family members disagreeing about what design is most appropriate to take the body into the afterlife. However, most families can agree that the purpose of the casket is to provide a respectful and meaningful vessel for the deceased.

One response to “Ghanaian “Fantasy Caskets”

  1. Another intriguing iteration of this phenomenon would be the creation of mausoleums that almost act as another house for the family after death. Many of these are catered to the personality of the people “living” within them after death and become a place defined by the family as a final resting place of their choosing. Although they may not be as elaborate as these fantasy caskets in Ghana, mausoleums are a type of fantasy burial place for many other cultures in which their dream is to be close to their other loved ones in a safe space for eternity. If you visit the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, one sees mausoleums that have levels below the ground filled with ancestors of the living descendants. In both the Ghanian example and the tradition of building mausoleums, it is demonstrated that many individuals and cultures believe that the final resting place of an individual should reflect their life and passions. The burial places become a reminder of the dead and a physical place that the people that surround the dead individual can visit and interact with. It almost seems in our culture that a traditional burial close to other family members or in a family plot is becoming less and less common, because of the tendency for families to be more spread out around the country. Do people believe that they lose something fundamental when they are not buried with their family?

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