6 December 2010
Last updated at 08:16
Ghanaians are well known for their elaborate coffins, such as this one prepared for a chief. The tradition is especially strong among the south-eastern Ga people. An exhibition of their coffins has just opened at the Jack Bell Gallery in London.
It is believed that the unusual coffins originated in Teshi, a fishing community on the outskirts of the capital Accra. A fisherman would be buried in a fish coffin, a design inspired by the hulls of fishing boats and canoes in the area.
These coffins are all the work of Paa Joe, 65, who has been making them for more than 50 years. In Ghana, a coffin is seen as a status symbol, or a way of remembering the deceased's job or personality.
The earliest example of these types of coffins was made in 1951 by two carpenters, Kane Kwei and his brother Adjetei. They made this coffin for their 91-year-old grandmother, who had never flown in a plane but told them she had often day-dreamed of flying.
Burials are seen as part of ancestral worship. The Ga people believe that a spirit cannot join the celestial family until it has undergone the appropriate burial rites.
Businessmen are often buried in a luxury Mercedes coffin. For a Ga, it is better to incur a lifetime of debts than cut back on funeral expenses. Photos by Richard Hamilton and Guy Lowndes