Fantasy Coffins at the National Museum of Funeral History

Updated on April 4, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Fantasy Coffins at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston
Fantasy Coffins at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston | Source

Coffins You Must See to Believe!

Custom coffins are not a new idea. History can show us many examples from the past and even the present. However, the symbolic ones from the Greater Accra Region of Ghana created primarily since the 1950s are the most unique and eye-catching ones that I have ever seen.

Airplane Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Airplane Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source

Ga Culture in Ghana

Seth Kane Kwei (also known as Kane Quaye) was a member of Ga, an ethnic group of people located in Ghana. Most of the original Ga people farmed and fished for a living; however, many have also gotten into trading and other professions. Seth Kane Kwei became a highly skilled carpenter.

It is interesting to learn that women in the Ga culture typically control the money. Inheritances of wealth occur along matrilineal lines of descent. Men live in men’s compounds, and the women and children live in women’s compounds.

When people in that culture die, a strong belief in an afterlife exists. Their ancestors become even more powerful than living according to their ideas. Thus their funerals are causes for celebration. Coffins carried to the gravesites are accompanied by people singing, dancing and celebrating their departed one’s new status beyond the grave.

Eagle Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Eagle Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source

Fantasy Coffins

Since the 1950s, lavish fantasy coffins created at the Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop in Teshie, Ghana (a suburb of Accra, which is the capital of Ghana), has become well-known for this type of coffin artistry. Former apprentices who studied under Kane Kwei and his heirs are now doing this type of creativity in other workshops in the area.

Chiefs and other leaders first had these elaborate and fanciful coffins. Widespread use of them has mushroomed since the 1960s in Ghana.

Many of the people living in Ghana are of the Christian faith. These types of symbolic fantasy coffins are not allowed in church ceremonies. The church likens them to fetishism. Thus Christians who also believe in reincarnation often have their sanctioned church ceremony first, then followed by burial in their artfully created coffin of choice.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fishing Canoe Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History. This was the very first type of coffin that Kane Kwei built and it was for his uncle. Chicken Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History Fish Eagle Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History Mercedes Benz Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History Yamaha Outdoor Motor Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History Bull Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History Leopard Casket at the National Museum of Funeral History
Fishing Canoe Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History. This was the very first type of coffin that Kane Kwei built and it was for his uncle.
Fishing Canoe Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History. This was the very first type of coffin that Kane Kwei built and it was for his uncle. | Source
Chicken Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Chicken Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source
Fish Eagle Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Fish Eagle Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source
Mercedes Benz Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Mercedes Benz Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source
Yamaha Outdoor Motor Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Yamaha Outdoor Motor Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source
Bull Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Bull Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source
Leopard Casket at the National Museum of Funeral History
Leopard Casket at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source

Cost of Honoring Ancestors

The fantasy coffins can cost $400 to $600 or even more. Considering that many people (according to Wikipedia) in Ghana only earn around $50 a month, this cost is enormous. All members of a family or even the community at large chip in to pay for these artful coffins. They wish for their ancestors to have the same social status and riches in the next life as they did in this one.

The coffins relate to the person’s occupation, status in the community, or even their personality traits. People who farmed for a living might choose a coffin that has an appearance of onion, carrot, shallot, or pumpkin as an example. Fishers might want a boat, fish, or similar object as a coffin. The coffins are meant to reflect the essence of the person who has passed on to the next life.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Crab and Lobster Coffins at the National Museum of Funeral HistoryShallot Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Crab and Lobster Coffins at the National Museum of Funeral History
Crab and Lobster Coffins at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source
Shallot Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History
Shallot Coffin at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source

Coffins Become Objects of Art

Since 1989 these figurative coffins have become better known because of art exhibitions in numerous countries. The twelve coffins at the National Museum of Funeral History is the most extensive collection of them outside of Ghana originating from the Kane Kwei workshop. Those used as objects of art for display purposes are built using sturdier wood than those used as actual funeral coffins.

Most of these fantasy coffins have brief lives after being created. They return to dust along with their mortal contents but live long in the memories of the Ghana community members.

The coffins which become museum exhibits such as these take on a different life. They are fascinating pieces of sculptural art depicting a far-off culture and funeral experience of people far from where we live.

Fantasy Coffins at the National Museum of Funeral History
Fantasy Coffins at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source

Other Unusual Coffins at The Museum

There are plenty of other unusual and curious looking coffins as well as caskets on display in addition to these fantasy coffins. Are you familiar with the auto customizer by the name of George Barris? He created the Batmobile and the Munster Koach, among others. My husband and I got to see an officially licensed replica of the Batmobile at the 7th annual car show at Towne Lake one year. That was fun!

Other coffins and caskets of interest include these among others:

  • See a replica of the custom-made coffin of Abraham Lincoln.
  • View the actual one-of-a-kind glass casket created for Snow White.
  • Learn about three nested papal coffins.
  • Look at a custom casket for three and learn about the story behind its creation.
  • Observe the same model and style of casket used for the funeral of President John F. Kennedy.
  • There is even a money casket on display!

A replica of George Barris Casket at the National Museum of Funeral History
A replica of George Barris Casket at the National Museum of Funeral History | Source

More to See and Learn at This Museum

An interesting note: Are you aware that the term casket originally meant a jewelry box? You can learn much more about the differences in coffins and caskets by clicking on a source link below.

There is so much more to learn by visiting this captivating museum. These coffins and caskets are just one small example of what you will find there. The address of the National Museum of Funeral History is 415 Barren Springs Drive, Houston, Texas 77090-5918.

“Our loved ones may be nailed in a coffin but their epitaph is nailed in our hearts. Death cannot kill love.”

— Vincent Okay Nwachukwu, Weighty 'n' Worthy African Proverbs - Volume 1

Did you know about these fantasy coffins before reading this?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Peggy Woods

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 days ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Niks,

        So glad that you liked learning about these creative and unique coffins. I found them to be fascinating.

      • Niks007 profile image

        Niks 

        4 days ago from India

        Your hubs always mention some unique places which peaks the interest of readers. I never thought that a coffin can be so extraordinarily creative. Thanks, Peggy for sharing this amazing information with us.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        8 days ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi C E Clark,

        These coffins are truly incredible. I would never have known about them except for visiting this national funeral museum.

      • Au fait profile image

        C E Clark 

        8 days ago from North Texas

        I don't think I've seen this article before. Love it! Had no idea there were such incredible coffins available. Posting this to FB & AH.

        Stay well . . .

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        Since most of these coffins are made of wood, they would disintegrate pretty quickly in the ground. So it is good that we can learn about them in this manner.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 weeks ago from USA

        Since nothing is buried forever, I can just imagine these custom art coffins unearthed at some point in the distant future and what the excavators would think. Mine would be a cat if I had my choice!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Heidi,

        As you wrote, "Art can be applied everywhere." Learning about these artful coffins fascinated me.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Liz,

        That is a unique name for a coffin maker: "Heaven Bound." I like the name considering what they are building.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Kathy,

        These coffins are way beyond the ordinary ones most of us know. Isn't it fun learning new things!

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        7 weeks ago from Chicago Area

        Just hope the deceased aren't still in them! :) Art can be applied everywhere, right? Thanks for sharing!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        7 weeks ago from UK

        I have never seen a museum like it. It reminds me of a street of coffin sellers in Africa that a family menber once saw. One company of coffin makers was called Heaven Bound.

      • The Stages Of ME profile image

        Kathy Henderson 

        7 weeks ago from Pa

        Peggy,

        I must share these with my friend who is a funeral director. He has options, but these are way beyond. Very cool!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)