Mercedes coffin carved by Ata Owoo, now in the National Museum of Scotland
Interesting, isn’t it – or is it – that coffins, after all this time, still look like nothing else, unless it’s other coffins? New materials – willow, seagrass, you name it – are easier on the eye, they don’t reflect the repellent glint of a winter sky, but there’s no mistaking what they’re for. We’ve even stayed loyal to the traditional toe-pincher style and resisted the oblong (but still unmistakeable) casket, now popular in much of Europe and, of course, the USA.
Over in Ghana they make coffins that look nothing like coffins. In their home country these tend to be rejected by Christian churches because they are reckoned to denote fetishism. When they make the voyage abroad they don’t go underground, they get put in museums – like the go-faster coffin above, now in the National Museum of Scotland.
In the UK we have our very own Crazy Coffins, and I guess some who commission one actually go and meet their maker in it. But they are still more popular in the art world than in the death zone.
Brides can never be persuaded to go easy on the expense of their wedding dress on the perfectly sensible grounds that they’ll only wear it once. We are proud to spend as much as we can borrow on weddings and as little as we can get away with on funerals. There are obvious reasons for this.
But the cardboard coffin people could knock up some interesting shapes that wouldn’t cost the earth?