When you think about coffins – if, indeed, you think about them at all – you probably picture a polished mahogany casket lined with purple satin. But a free exhibition at the Southbank Centre in London shows that death needn’t be depressing. ‘Boxed: Fabulous Coffins from UK and Ghana’ collects bizarre bespoke coffins from the famous Paa Joe workshop in Ghana – such as this pineapple-shaped casket – and Crazy Coffins in Nottingham.
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1. When you think about coffins - if, indeed, you think about them at all - you probably picture a polished mahogany casket lined with purple satin. But a free exhibition at the Southbank Centre in London shows that death needn't be depressing. 'Boxed: Fabulous Coffins from UK and Ghana' collects bizarre bespoke coffins from the famous Paa Joe workshop in Ghana - such as this pineapple-shaped casket - and Crazy Coffins in Nottingham.
2. In Ghana, there is a tradition of burying the dead in a vibrant customised coffin that reflects the deceased's interests. This tradition was started in the 1950s by Seth Kane Kwei, who made his first-ever coffin the shape of an aeroplane so his gran could take her 'first flight' after she died. His craft is carried on by Paa Joe, a 66-year-old master craftsman based at the Kane Kwei Carpentry Works in Accra.
3. Among the bizarre coffins he has made in the past include ones made to look like mobile phones, sharks, Coke bottles, beer bottles, chickens, cars and aeroplanes.
4. There has been a big increase in demand in the UK for customised caskets, and Vic Fearn and Company have come up with what they call Crazy Coffins. Their designs including a ballet shoe, a guitar and a skateboard. This coffin is based on Antony Gormley's Angel of the North statue - albeit without the wings, which would need a much larger plot.
5. Some of the coffins were produced as demonstrations of the company's skills, some were chosen by the families of the deceased, while others were chosen for themselves by people who are still very much alive.
6. This coffin was commissioned by Pat Cox, a music teacher and passionate ballet fan.
7. Retired couple Gwen and Kevin Upex from Newark, Nottinghamshire, commissioned twin coffins which reflect their passion for canal boat sailing. They keep them in their living room, apparently.
8. Richard Mullard has created his own coffin that will enable him to be buried wearing his skis as if on a final expedition into the frozen north.
9. 'Boxed: Fabulous Coffins from UK and Ghana' runs from 20 to 29 January 2012 at the Southbank Centre in London.