Paa Joe was born on November 21st, 1947 in Akwapim Hills, Greater Accra Region in Ghana. He belongs to the Ga-Adangbe. At the age of 16 he started his ten-year apprenticeship from 1960-1970 as a coffin artist in the workshop of his uncle Kane Kwei (1924–1992) in Teshie. In 1977 Paa Joe started his own business in Nungua. In 1989 he participated in a group exhibition ‘’ Les Magiciens de la terre’’ at the Centre Pompidou, Paris France. He is an artist and pioneer of the fantasy coffin craft. Paa Joe is known as the Grandfather of Ghana’s fantasy coffin trade for his extraordinary artistic talent. He makes beautiful creations that are often seen by only a handful of people before being buried forever.
In the past he was sought out by US Presidents and art galleries. Paa Joe is considered one of the most important Ghanaian coffin artists of his generation. He has taken part in numerous major art exhibitions in Europe, Japan and the USA. He has trained a lot of apprentices including his own son and successor Jacob, on how to make these coffins. He has been in many artist residencies in Indianapolis, USA (2002), Nottingham, UK (2013), Lagos, Nigeria (2015) and Johannesburg, South Africa (2015). His fantasy coffins are featured in the collections of many collectors and art museums worldwide, and on permanent display at the British Museum in London, Royal Ontario Museum in Canada and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
In 2008, he was forced to move his workshop from the Centre of Accra to Pobiman in the outskirts of Accra. He now works with his son Jacob Tetteh-Ashong, who now runs and manages the workshop. In 2017, Paa Joe celebrated his 70th birthday and 40 years of fantasy coffin making in Ghana with a big event organized by Gallery 1957 based in Accra. During this event, he collaborated with a performing artist named Efua Sutherland, where Paa built 6 new coffins for an exhibition in Accra while Efua used one of his pieces for a performance. He is also featured in a released documentary “Paa Joe & The Lion” by the British film maker, Benjamin Wigley. In 2018 he took an artist in residence in Herron School of Arts with 2 of his assistants, where they built a jaguar coffin with the students. He has been selected to receive an award in Detroit by the Detroit institute of Arts with the title African recognition Award.
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