The commonly used American saying, ?you can?t take it with you? is meant to discourage materialism, and to remind us that earthly possessions can?t be taken into the afterlife.

However, for those who want to be buried there is at least one possession that is not only taken to the grave, but essentially carries them into the next life: the coffin. And who says you can?t go out in style!?

Paa Joe, a master carver, believes that a person should be remembered for what they accomplished during their life.  His intriguing coffins highlight aspects of the deceased?s personality and profession to represent the life they lived even in their time of death.

Internationally recognized for his ?fantasy coffins,? Paa Joe has carved thousands of coffins that can be found in the Brooklyn Museum, British Museum, and Cambridge Museum while countless others are buried beneath the ground.

As seen on BBC News, The Independent, and Huffington Post, his carefully carved coffins have dazzled and amazed audiences around the world.

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Martina Dodd sat down with the Ghanaian artist to ask a few question about his creative process, his favorite coffin, and his current projects.

AADAT: Typically how long does it take to carve such an elaborate coffin?

PJ: From 4 weeks to 12 weeks.

AADAT: What was the most outrageous coffin you were commissioned to carve?

PJ: A Porsche Bi turbo and a half naked woman.

AADAT How many have you made, do you have a favorite?

PJ: I have made thousands of coffins both local and international. My favourite coffin is the Lion.

AADAT: Do you carve a coffin differently depending on if it will be buried underground vs. displayed in a museum?

PJ: No. The coffins I make are prescribed by my clients.

AADAT: Do you feel as though people in Ghana admire your work as much as those in Europe? How do you feel those in Ghana view the coffins compared your European clients.

PJ: Yes. I feel excited when my coffins are on display and people showing interested in them. But feel very bad when they into the grave, because it takes me months to make one and within 2 hours it goes into the grave.

AADAT Have you already carved the coffin that you want to eventually be buried in?

PJ: No, because I know if I die my coffin will be built by my old apprentices.

AADAT: What age were you when you first started carving? Who taught you?

PJ: I was 16 years old when my mother sent me to my uncle Seth Kane Kwei the second generation of this fancy coffins to teach me this trade.

AADAT: Why is it important to continue this legacy? Why do you want to create an artist residency to teach this skill.

PJ: As humans, death is part of our life and everyone must go in style due to his or her profession. And the reason why to create the artist residency is to teach all students and others on how to make this fancy coffins by them trying their hands with the working tools.

AADAT: Tell us a bit about any projects you are working on? How can people help support?

PJ: I was forced to move my workshop from the center of Accra in 2008 and this business has been slow. And due to this, customers find it difficult to visit and patronize with me.

The biggest project I am aiming is to build a Coffin Gallery in the center of Accra where there will be exchange of International cultural exhibitions and where students all over the world can partake in the artist residency. The target for this project is 130,000 pounds.

I call upon everyone who admires my work to support me with any little amount they can to raise for this project. Also there is an upcoming documentary about me entitled Paa Joe and The Lion by filmmaker Ben Wigley.

Credit: aadatart

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