Paa Joe & The Lion
His works can be seen in museums worldwide, and yet, most of them rest six feet under. Coffin-artist Paa Joe is one of the most esteemed representatives of a Ghanaian burial tradition: With artfully painted fantasy coffins, last respects are paid to the life and work of the deceased. Whether they come in shape of a Porsche, a sneaker, a chili pepper, or even a Coca-Cola bottle (in memory of a street vendor), they all are endowed by the master’s hands with that irresistible magic, which turns the funeral ceremonies – they last up to three days and nights – into celebrations of life.
In 2016, Paa Joe and his son were invited to Nottinghamshire as Artists in Residence where they were accompanied by documentary filmmaker Benjamin Wigley. In the midst of a bucolic palace garden, observed by the curious eyes of English visitors, the two artists carved a coffin in the shape of a lion that traditionally would suggest the funeral of a high-ranking personality. The collectively celebrated burial ceremony was the spectacular finale of an interactive art and culture festival.
Wigley’s sensitive long-term observation of this unorthodox project between England and Ghana is more than the documentation of a cross-cultural experiment; it is a surprisingly playful commentary on the cultural relations between Europe and Africa.
Ben Wigley is a documentary filmmaker and artist whose work explores journeys made by individ-uals and cultures. His work blurs the boundaries between story telling and fine art filmmaking. 'My projects are often realised in the space between art and documentary. I am currently interested in how we talk about our lives through the metaphors of the natural world, and in the connections we make between memory. Working with film allows me to introduce elements of documentary, poetry, philosophy, spirituality and folk culture into my works to create a sense of magical realism'.
Ben is creative director at Artdocs Ltd, which he established in 2005. His roster includes National Trust, BBC, British Council and Tate amongst others. His projects have led to collaborations with Benjamin Zephaniah, Tania Kovats, Owen Sheers, Sir Paul Smith, Martin Ware and Paa Joe. He currently lives and works in Nottingham, UK.