Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Ghanaian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Brazilian funeral traditions and Viking funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Celebrate Life of Deceased
Rather than expressing sorrow, Ghanaian funerals are a time to celebrate the life of the deceased. The funeral is a large social gathering where the phrase “the more the merrier” perfectly fits, as there could be as many as hundreds of funeral attendees, and everyone usually wears red or black clothing to symbolize their grief. Colorful billboard displays are made to notify everyone about the funeral.
A Ghanaian funeral is usually held on the weekend, with Saturday being the most common day, and it can be an all-night celebration. Funerals can be as expensive as weddings, or even more with the average funeral cost being between $15,000 and $20,000. Some family and friends of the deceased will offer a monetary donation to the deceased’s family to help pay for funeral expenses and to pay their respects to the deceased.
Music and Dance
A Ghanaian funeral is essentially a party celebrating the deceased’s life through music and dancing. The music is typically a Ghanaian mix of jazz, brass bands, and African rhythms; and it’s common for photographs to be taken of funeral attendees dancing and celebrating the deceased’s life. There’s usually food and drinks served, as well.
However, before the celebration begins, there’s usually a funeral ceremony with religious blessings and tribute speeches. According to the 2010 census, the most common religion of Ghana is Christianity with 71.2% of the population followed by Muslim with 17.6%, so the ceremony usually follows Christian customs.
Ghana is known for their extravagant coffins in the shape of unique objects, such as a lion, shoe, or chili pepper. The personalized coffins are made to reflect favorite interests and passions of the deceased, like this fish-shaped coffin for a popular Ghana fisherman.
Paa Joe is one of Ghana’s most famous coffin artists with five decades of experience in the funeral profession. He first became interested in designing coffins as a teenager and his first coffin was carved as the shape of a building for a real estate developer. Since then, he’s made a variety of fantasy coffins shaped like animals, cars, boats, shoes, cameras, phones, and many other significant objects. Check out this article for more Ghanaian coffin designs, including coffins by Paa Joe.