Fantastic coffins from Ghana

10 August to 27 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, 28 of these figurative coffins were donated to the Museum of Sepulchral Culture. 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 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.

Museumscafe, Museum für Sepulkralkultur

"Tro-Tro", Paa Joo, Ghana



10th August - 27th 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 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



6 April to 14 July 2019

The exhibition ended on Sunday with great success and very positive feedback. The edition "TOTENTANZ" and the exhibition catalogue deadline are still available in the museum shop.

Dance of Death, 2019, woodcut, 50 x 70 cm
Edition: 50 copies, signed and numbered
exclusively for the Museum für Sepulkralkultur Kassel
Few copies are still available in the museum shop.


Since the 15th century, the aesthetic examination of the motif of the dance of death (Totentanz) has reflected the realization that all people - regardless of age, social status or profession - can be recalled from death to the afterlife at any time. In the late Middle Ages and early modern times, the moral aspect was at the forefront. One should be prepared, therefore without sin. Stephan Balkenhol lets a woman dance dynamically in the arms of a bone man dressed in a black suit. One might almost think that the two are connected vividly in dance, which has always been regarded as an expression of joie de vivre. Who leads, who follows? Who believes to lead and only follows? Who follows without noticing that he leads?

The price of the graphic "Totentanz" is EUR 890,- plus shipping costs if applicable.
For the binding purchase via e-mail or telephone please contact us:


The deadline catalogue for the exhibition costs 29,80 Euro.

Kerstin Hering: hering@sepulkralmuseum.de or ++49 561 91893 13