Ghanaian artist collaborates with Sac State students on fantasy coffin


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A large group of students followed behind the coffin on it’s journey to Kadema hall. The coffin would sit in Kadema hall until around 4 p.m. when it was taken back to the sculpture lab to be completed.

Robert Moon

Thanks to Sacramento State’s “One World Initiative,” several Sac State students were able to work with world-renowned Ghanaian artist Eric Adjetey Anang.

Anang, who lives in Accra, Ghana, follows in his grandfather, Seth Kane Kwei’s footsteps, creating fantasy coffins for prominent figures in the Ghana culture and as pieces of art for the world at large.

One of these pieces of art is now housed at Sac State.

Anang’s newest fantasy coffin, shaped like a pipe, is a gift to Sac State donated by Anang to show his appreciation for allowing him to visit and work with Sac State students.

Chris Duffy, a graduating senior and art major, was one of the students involved in the project.  Duffy talked about how working on the project with Anang was a different experience in which the process solely used hand tools instead of power tools.

“We don’t use power saws, we only use hand saws and we only use hand planes,” Duffy said. “That was sort of the first learning curve to get over is how to use these different tools that nowadays don’t have a place in the shop because everything’s run on power.”

Duffy said he was one of the more involved students in the project, spending most of his time devoted to creating this coffin instead of attending his classes.

“I think I have got about thirty hours into it this week,” Duffy said. “I’m only taking art classes this semester and so I told all my professors that I would be working on this instead of attending their classes, which is a pretty good deal for me.”

The pipe-shaped coffin took roughly five to six days to construct, though Anang did comment that the project would have taken much longer without the assistance of the students.

However, Duffy isn’t the only art student who assisted Anang with creating the coffin. Many other students such as John Klaiber, Jasmine Tamayo and Huayao Zhang. Professor Joy Bertinuson assisted in the project with doing a fair deal of the painting. In total, about 7 students worked on the project, according to Professor Bertinuson via email.

Anang was also the keynote speaker for “One World Initiative” on Thursday, April 18, during which he put on a presentation showcasing his work.

At the end of the keynote speech, after answering a few questions from the audience, Anang revealed his newest creation, the pipe-shaped coffin, and art students showed up to transport it to Kadema Hall.

Then, at 4 p.m., it was once again moved back to the art department’s sculpture lab to receive some finishing touches.

On Friday, April 19, several more coats of paint were added, changing the previously black pipe to a golden brown color.

Anang left Sacramento on Sunday, April 21 but the coffin stayed at the Art Sculpture Lab at  Sac State.

“I donated it to Sacramento State,” Anang said. “It cost a lot of money to bring me here. One way of compensating that is to donate the piece.”

During his keynote presentation, Anang mentioned that he normally charges about $1,000 in Ghana but that coffins made outside of Ghana with materials that are more expensive cost more.

For Anang, the process of creating the fantasy coffins is one of tradition, a tradition started by his late grandfather. Many of the coffins that he makes have symbolic meaning.

There are some styles of coffin that Anang makes frequently, including bible coffins, which he said gets requested 20 to 30 times per year.

Anang has also already constructed a coffin for his own burial. This coffin is based on his personal hand plane which he uses for the construction of his coffins, he said.

According to a statement made by Bertinuson via email, once the project is officially finished, the coffin will be brought out for special events before eventually being auctioned off to the benefit of the art department.

“The coffin will be temporarily stored at the Art Sculpture Lab (ASL) until a more suitable location can be found,” Bertinuson said.

Anang said he would love to return to Sacramento if given the opportunity.

“Oh my god, I would love it,” Anang said. “I’ve been to a lot of places and I think this is unique, especially with the ceremony we had.”