PROCESS, PRODUCT, PLACE:
INVESTIGATING WOOD PRACTICES BEHIND THE GHANAIAN FANTASY COFFINS.
It is a Saturday afternoon in a small farming community on the coastal plain near Accra, Ghana’s capital. A fearsome lion is carried above the heads of a colorful, jostling throng. With bristling mane and retail erect, it is an object both symbolic and functional, for this is the coffin of a renowned hunter being taken for burial (Secretan 108).
This year I received a World Wood Day Research Grant.
In December I will travel to Accra, Ghana to work closely with the Kane Kwei Carpentry workshop. In March I will present my research and documentation at the World Wood Day Conference, location and time TBD.
A huge thank you goes out to Eric Anang Adjetety who has been so generous to me throughout this process. I will stay with his family and friends while in Accra. Thank you, Eric!
excerpts from my grant proposal:
This research project will illuminate and define the tools and techniques used in the construction and surface treatment of traditional Ghanaian wood fantasy coffins. This information will be primarily pursued through a relationship between Ghanaian master carpenter Eric Anang and U.S. artist Ellie Richards at the Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop in Accra, Ghana. These fantasy coffins vary in significance among different groups, allowing for a wide breadth of appreciation; although these objects are regarded by certain fields as contemporary art and revered by many for their cultural definition little is recorded on the skills, tools, and materials used to create these monumental forms. Acquiring the wood construction and finishing treatment techniques behind a Ghanaian fantasy coffin through the apprenticeship model will expand the possibility for and promote opportunity of cultural exchange between Western and African perspectives within the field of woodworking and contemporary art.
Wood is a humble medium and one that permeates everyday life. From a simple spoon to the structures we inhabit, this organic material can provide many ways to live a comfortable life. Specifically in the Ga culture, wood takes on a role that extends beyond a lived life, it has a crucial and customary role as a celebrated, symbolic form used in funerary practices. Among the Ga, wood becomes servant to an ancient custom involving the construction of a wooden coffin that honors the deceased by taking on a representational form relating to the successes had in their life. An investigation into the Ghanaian coffin makers approach to sculptural woodworking could be understood more widely allowing for an expanded cultural understanding of these rich, complex objects.