To heaven in a coke bottle
I always thought I would want to be cremated. I'd never thought of departing this world in a giant fish. Or a coke bottle, a chicken, a saw, a cow, or a cell phone. But that's how the Ga people send their loved ones off. The Ga, who live on the coast of Ghana, take the art of death very seriously. They believe in an afterlife and make sure their loved ones travel to that new world in real style.
Carpenters celebrate the lives of the deceased by decorating their coffins in a fitting tribute to them. The coffin will be a new home for the departed, so it makes sense that it should be beautiful – and appropriate. You were a seamstress; you're buried in a giant sewing machine. A fisherman; you get a giant fish. A carpenter, a saw.
Fond of beer? You're buried in a bottle of lager. Chain smoker? A cigarette. Constantly talking to your friends? A cell phone could be your final resting place.
I guess this means I'd be buried in a laptop or a giant pen, which doesn't sound all that glamorous. I think I'd prefer a fish.
They do sharks too but, although it would look great, it probably wouldn't really be me. A dragon would be cool, though. Or a giant thistle (in tribute to my Scottish heritage).
The creation of these Ga coffins is a real labor of love, so much so that it's sometimes hard to let them be buried. Says Ablade Glover, an artist who works with the carpenters, 'By the end of the day, they are going to bury this thing, which has taken so much time, so much energy.'
Inevitably, like Navajo sandpaintings that were always meant to symbolize impermanence, these coffins have found a niche in the souvenir market. These days, you can even buy them online, and have them fully customized.
So if you really, really want that coke bottle coffin, it's good to know you can get one – for a price (about $600). A bargain for the best-looking funeral in town. RM