Photos Famed fantasy coffin carver Paa Joe puts the finishing touches on a fish coffin for the Chief of Fishermen, De Tse Nunu.A coffin in the shape of a Red Tsile Fish – containing the body of a the Chief of Fisherman De Tse Nunu – is carried through his village in Ghana. The blood of a sacrificed sheep has been poured over the head of the fish as a blessing.Working from photographs and sketches, Paa Joe constructs a truck. Still in it’s early stages, the coffin has been designed for a man who traded in coal from inland Ghana to the coast. The coffin is built of inexpensive soft wood called Waa-waa. The hardwood, Mvuli, is prefered because it will last longer in the ground, but it is not always affordable.Two of Paa Joe’s assistants paint the coffin to match the vehicle owned by a coal trader. The artists make sure that all details are faithfully represented, including the driver’s favourite slogan on the front of the cab, inspired by the Christian Church of Ghana, “God’s Time Is The Best”The coffin of another truck owner is carried to the burial ground. The body is placed in a silk lined box in the back of the truck.A crowd of mourners gathers around the deep grave as the fantasy coffin is lowered in. The driver’s name, Johnny Halliday (after the French rock singer) appears on the truck body. As the coffin is eased down into the grave, some pieces are broken off the truck to make it fit. These pieces however, are respectfully laid on top of the coffin before it is covered with earth. Once filled, the grave is strewn with branches to mark the spot.Family members and friends carry framed photographs of a deceased sea captain at the head of the cortege to the cemetery. The captain was well respected, and his crew have travelled all the way from Cameroon to carry his boat coffin along the funeral route. Among the guests are professional women mourners, who regularly attend funerals and lead the bereaved in expressing grief.The captains’ coffin floats on a sea of hands to the burial ground as family and friends wave it farewell.In addition to carving the elaborate boat coffin, the coffinmaker has prepared ceremonial staffs to be carried by chiefs and elders attending the funeral who are associated with the fishing trade.The boat coffin containing the captain’s body rests briefly in the courtyard of his family home so the community can bid their farewells. Traditionally, funerals for people who worked on the sea are held on Tuesdays (the sea god’s birthday); all the others take place on Saturdays.At a village in Togo, near the Ghanaian border, mourners celebrate the funeral of Homawu Azanleko Latey, a chief of Ewe descent who was also renowned as a hunter. As the coffin is carried out of the chief’s house by a group of his fellow hunters, the villagers dance around it to the sound of pulsating drums.This chief’s coffin has been designed by the late Kane Kwei’s workshop in the form of a leopard with bristling wooden whiskers and menacing teeth.The mummified body of Mme Amortsoe Quaye, a voodoo healing priestess, sits in state at her wake. Parrot feathers sealed into her mouth with red wax indicate her status as high priestess.On the morning of her burial, the body of Madame Quaye is dressed in a blue satin gown for her final journey into the afterworld. Her family and friends bid her farewell.Outside Madame Quaye’s home, priestesses dance to powerful drum rhythms that induce a trance state. In this image, a priestess has become possessed. After frenzied dancing, she collapses heavily into the lap of a fellow priestess. After many hours of lying in state, Madame Quaye is finally placed into a coffin that has been fashioned as a replica of the thatched shrine house where she practiced her healing arts. Her Ga name “Abudu Woyoo” (Priestess of the Abudu Shrine) decorates the doorway where she is shown seated with two patients who have come for a cure.In the iconography of Ga coffins, powerful birds are specifically reserved for the burial of royalty, prominent chiefs and leaders. Here, Paa Joe and an assistant apply gold paint to the eagle coffin of the Paramount Ga Chief, Nii Okonsha. Attached to the back of the eagle is a small group of carved figures depicting the chief and two of his attendants, one of whom is carrying his golden stool which will accompany him to the afterworld.Paramount Chief Nii Okonsha lies in state at his home as mourners and friends bid him farewell.As the funeral cortege leaves the royal compound, a libation is poured over the head of the eagle. The coffin is then hoisted to shoulder height and carried through the streets of Accra, where thousands of mourners pay their respects.Clockwise from top left: Crab coffin of a crustacean fisherman; Coffin for a Ghanaian onion farmer made by Kane Kwei; Cow coffin of a dairy farmer; Eagle coffin of a Paramount Chief.Top: KLM airplane coffin of a frequent flier. Bottom: A Mercedes coffin of the former owner of a fleet of cars in Accra, Ghana. The Benz features the licence plate “RIP” – Rest In Peace.