Buried in Style: Fantasy Coffins

In Ghana, in West Central Africa, it is considered a status symbol to make your journey to the next life in grand style. And great style means something different for everyone.

On the hot and crowded streets of Accra, the capital of Ghana, where you can buy just about anything from sidewalk vendors, an array of coffins tempts buyers.

In Ghana, you or your loved ones can be buried in a coffin that resembles anything from a tuna fish, to an elephant, to an airplane.

And in this coffin shop, Kristina Hampton, an art student from Beverly, Mass, was researching her college thesis on the social relevance of fantasy coffins.

"Since I'm an art therapy major," she said, "I'm trying to find a focus on how fantasy coffins — they're made so artistically — is therapeutic for the mourning families."

Hampton took me to a funeral that looked more like a rock concert. Daniel Tettey, who died of malaria at the age of 57, was a merchant sailor. His coffin was a 7-foot-long cargo ship.

Coffins Represent Life You Led

Whether you are a farmer who wants to be buried inside a giant turkey, or an executive in a fancy shoe, these coffins have become a symbol in Ghana of the kind of life led by the deceased. They represent one's status in society.

The list of coffin choices is endless: cacao beans, bibles, peppers, lobsters, lions, beer bottles and even a replica of your own store. It's a huge industry in Accra — and expensive. A coffin can cost $400 dollars, which is equivalent to one year's salary.

Hampton has made a coffin in the shape of a guitar and hopes it will be used someday by a music fan.

"It doesn't matter how you fit the person inside or how comfortable [they are]," she explained. "You can curl them up in a ball, anyway you can make people fit," she laughed.

And at Tettey's funeral, the merchant sailor, was carried away in his cargo ship, floating on a sea of friends and loved ones.

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