Monday, 24 January 2011


So a South African man tells me that I can travel just a short way to see the Ghanaian speciality of novelty coffin carving. "Grand", I say, "Where?". "'Tishoo", says the man. "Gesundheit", say I (it must be similar in Afrikaans). "No", he said, "that's the name of the place. Or something like that".

Mr Google, on being asked "accra coffins tishoo", tells you that Teshie Nungua is the place. My map of Accra (a consistent liar) suggested it was about 6K east of the town centre. Easy.

Maggie and I summon a taxi and tell him we want to see the coffins in Teshie. "Jump in", he says. Approved protocol is to negotiate the price first: he suggested a fare about 9x the usual - I got it down to 6x, after which the lure of novelty coffins made me give in.

The man drove a really long way through amazing traffic & roadside scenes. Maggie and I scanned the scenery for novelty coffins without joy. Eventually, we see a roadsign announcing "Teshie Nungua" - hurrah, this is now easy.

Except T-N truned out to be vast. And the driver had quite misunderstood why we had made the trip. "Shall I take you to the beach?", he asks. "No no - we've come to see the carving". He lights up - Ghana is full of tat carvers. "Coffins", I say. "For dead people", says Maggie helpfully. We are beyond the limits of his English.

Some time later he gets the hang of what we are asking - he looks deeply sceptical but stops to ask a likely local. We now do this:
  1. Stop taxi, ask likely local
  2. Listen attentively
  3. Jump back in taxi & say "I have it" (or similar)
  4. Drive off fast (sometimes along the road we have just travelled)
  5. After N minutes, begin to look uncertain: return to step (1)
many many times.

Ultimately, & no exaggeration, we are about to exit the town along the same road we had entered it a long time ago. He stops confidently & points upwards - we see a display of novelty coffins. "I will arrange this with the man", he says, and scurries in.

The driver returns, and says that if we give the man GC10, we can inspect the workshop and products. "But he will accept GC5", he adds.

Well worth all that we went through. Photographers are getting buried in cameras, school-bus drivers buried in buses, farmers buried in chickens (with hinged wings), ... big business. The owner said there were two or three companies in the game.

Next dinner party here will include the game "What do you want to be buried in?

More pictures

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