Africa at Noon on December 6th, 2017

“Whirling Return of The Ancestors”

Henry John Drewal and Eric Adjetey Anang
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Time and Location

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI


In the early 1950s, Seth Kane Kwei introduced the use of design coffins to the Gold Coast, or present day Ghana. These colorful coffins were shown overseas for the first time in “Magician de la Terre” as art pieces. These colorful sculptures serve as a way to celebrate a dear one.  Anang is here to share with you how the people of Ghana celebrate their loved ones through their profession or position held in their various communities.


Henry John Drewal

An apprenticeship with a Yoruba sculptor in Nigeria transformed his life and led him to interdisciplinary studies at Columbia University in African art history and culture where he earned two Masters’ degrees and a PhD. Since 1991 he has been the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at UW-Madison. His published work includes several books, edited volumes, exhibition catalogues, and many articles on African/African Diaspora arts: Introspectives: Contemporary Art by Americans and Brazilians of African Descent; Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought; Beads, Body, and Soul: Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe; and Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and its Diasporas. His current work, called Sensiotics, considers the crucial role of the senses in shaping body-minds, arts, cultures, and histories.

Eric Adjetey Anang

Born in Teshie, on the coast of Ghana, Eric Adjetey Anang began helping his family in the carpentry workshop at the age of eight. He joined the family business, Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, as an apprentice following high school, and assumed leadership of the shop at twenty. Anang is a third generation coffin-maker and, along with his father and apprentices, passionately stewards his family’s legacy as he refines and elevates this culturally significant art form.
Anang’s work has been shown in exhibitions across West Africa and Europe and is held in private collections across the globe. Since 2008, Anang has participated in a dozen residencies, conducted workshops, and has been featured in multiple documentaries worldwide. He maintains a dual-residency in Madison, Wisconsin and at Teshie, where he continues to produce coffins for funerary patrons, art collectors, and museum collections, including the University of Iowa Museum of Art.