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Lobster (Ghanaian Fantasy Coffin)

Artist:

Theophilius Nii Anum Sowah

Location:

University of Massachusetts, Boston, McCormack Hall  

Location

University of Massachusetts, Boston, McCormack Hall
United States
42° 18' 45.5904" N, 71° 2' 20.5476" W

Neighborhood:

Dorchester

Type:

Sculpture

Year:

1993

Medium:

Wood

Collection:

Arts on the Point

Funders:

Description:

This finely carved wooden creature hails from Accra, the capital of Ghana and home of the Ga people. Though it looks at first like a sculpture or commercial marker—advertising, perhaps, a seafood market—it is in fact a made-to-order coffin. The practice of burying loved ones in figurative coffins dates back only about fifty years, when the Sowah family established a carpentry workshop in Accra and launched this unique and fast-growing trend. Families generally request coffins that reflect the trade of their deceased relative; for example, a cobbler might be buried in a giant shoe, a soda distributor in an oversized Coke can. Some designs symbolize interests or prized possessions, such as a car. The lobster coffin, which was likely made to honor a fisherman, illustrates the importance of the sea to Ghanaians as a major source of income and food. For a better view of the exquisitely detailed craftsmanship on the lobster’s head and underside, take the elevator up one floor and look down.

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