Interview with Paa Joe

If you could introduce yourself
I am Joseph Tetteh Ashong but people call me Paa Joe. I was born in 1947
in the Akwiapim area.

How did you begin your journey into the craft trade?
I was introduced into this trade in 1962. My mother took me to my uncle Seth Kane Kwei who was the inventor of this fantasy coffin.

Was your journey always smooth? Did you every receive criticisms or were you ever discouraged?
Yes my journey through this craft has always been smooth. People always appreciated the craft and it makes me proud when I see people appreciating my work.

You carve all your coffins by hand, what do you feel are the benefits of hand carving goods, and what are your views of the changes in the craft industry?
When work is hand crafted it is more attractive to the collectors, and they are inspired to commission them.

Did you always know that your work would lead to worldwide fame?
Yes I always knew

How does it feel to be called the grandfather of the Coffin Art trade?
I feel very pleased when people entitle me as the Grandfather of this coffin trade.

What inspired you to take this route in your craftsmanship?
Such crafts allow me to be creative and therefore I can incorporate into my work the things that I love. And there are a number of carvings that I love very much.

How do you feel about the ultimate destination of your work – being buried underground?

It is very upsetting because it takes your time, knowledge, strength to make such coffins and finally they go into the grave where no one sees them anymore.

What are your opinions on the development of African traditions in the modern era?
Everyone must maintain its culture without ignoring them and my trade  has become part of Ga culture now despite being only 50 years old, so it is possible.

What is next for Paa Joe?
What am aiming now is looking for Grants & funds to build my coffin Galley in Accra, Ghana where there will be an artist residency for students and people abroad to learn how to make this trade and do a foreign cultural exchange exhibition.

Do you have anything to say to the African community listening to this interview?
The African community should dedicate their self in what ever they are doing in life.


By Naa Adjeley Tsofanye