Fantastic coffins from Ghana

10 August to 13 October 2019

Death occupies a central place in African cultures. Especially in Ghana it is regarded as an outstanding event. This is expressed in an opulent funeral celebration, usually lasting several days, which is hardly to be found anywhere else in the world. Often even the coffin is outstanding in colour and form. A chilli pod, a tiger, a plane or a bus, it is a real "eye-catcher"! It reflects what was important in the life of the individual and what made him tick. At the same time, it forms an important material link between the world of the living and the world of the dead; for although many Ghanaians are Christians, their piety is strongly permeated by an archaic ancestral cult. They believe that the deceased establish a connection between the living and the so-called ancestral spirits.

The ancestor spirits are considered to be powerful and can influence the thissa purulent world. For this reason, the arrangement of a splendid funeral, in which the coffin is sometimes no less impressive, is also linked to the intention not to fall out of favour with them. To secure the favour of the ancestors again and again is to keep them from sending out disaster.

What is interesting about all this is that the coffins, which are based on animals, plants, buildings, everyday objects and utensils, have by no means always been anchored in the cult of the dead of the Ga and are therefore anything but traditional. It was not until the middle of the 20th century that they began to establish themselves.

In December 2018 Antje Hegge (Cologne) donated the "Collection Hermann Krause" (1944 - 2018) with 28 of these figurative coffins to the Museum for Sepulchral Culture. They were made in the workshop of the renowned coffin artist Paa Joe (* 1947). With the special exhibition, which represents a selection of them, the public now also has the opportunity to gain an impression of this special type of coffin. In this way, as well as incorporating numerous photographs by the ethnologist Dr. Regula Tschumi, the exhibition also provides insight into a culture that - from a Christian-Western point of view - reveals great creative potential in dealing with loss. This gives reason to reflect on the significance of creativity, which is again and again the hallmark of individuality, in dealing with farewell and grief, as well as to explore it personally for oneself.

An article by ZDF can be found in the heute journal of 12 August 2019 or here.

Museumscafe, Museum für Sepulkralkultur

"Tro Tro", Paa Joe, Ghana



10th August - 13th October 2019

"If you want to talk shit about me, you better grab a chair and sit with me!"
(title of a popular African waxprint fabric)

The artist Martin Wenzel, who lives in Frankfurt, shows coffins and urns that were inspired by a work stay in Ghana in 2017 in the studio of the coffin maker and artist Kudjoe Affutu.
His works represent an ironic, witty, but also provocative commentary on our burial being. The intercultural exchange was promoted by a scholarship of the Hessische Kulturstiftung.

Museumscafe, Museum für Sepulkralkultur

Foto: Wolfgang Günzel