The University of Iowa

December 7 WorldCanvass discusses ‘fantasy coffins’ as funerary objects and high art

November 20th, 2017

Contemporary African artist Eric Adjetey Anang, internationally renowned for the Ghanaian ‘fantasy coffins’ he and generations before him have created, has spent the fall 2017 semester as artist-in-residence at the UI Museum of Art.  He will join UI faculty and African art scholars on the December 7 WorldCanvass in a program called “Art & the Afterlife.”  WorldCanvass will take place from 5:30-7 p.m. at MERGE, 136 South Dubuque Street.  The program is free and open to the public.  Please come early for a pre-show catered reception from 5-5:30 p.m.

As Cory Gundlach, curator of the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the UI Museum of Art, will explain, the current UIMA solo exhibition of work by a contemporary African artist is the first in over twenty years.  The exhibition of five of Anang’s fantasy coffins at the IMU’s Black Box Theater introduces Iowans to a traditional funerary practice in Ghanaian society that holds deep meaning for the families and loved ones of the departed—and a creative art form that has caught the eye and imagination of art collectors around the world. With funding provided by an International Programs Major Project grant, Anang has spent the fall semester creating original works that will become part of the UIMA’s permanent collection and working with sculpture students in the School of Art and Art History.

We’ll open the program with Gundlach and Anang, exploring the origins and meaning of these fantastical objects, the design of which is often intended to provide familiarity and comfort to the departed as they transition from life to ancestral status. 

Christopher Roy and Isabel Barbuzza, both faculty in the UI School of Art and Art History, will join the conversation in the second segment of WorldCanvass. Roy will discuss the broader context of the afterlife in African art and Barbuzza will share the experiences of UI students in her sculpture studio as they worked alongside Anang and observed his process and techniques.

The third segment will bring Anang into conversation with Silvia Forni, African art scholar and curator of African Art and Cultures at the Royal Ontario Museum, who has long studied the fantasy coffins and their emergence into the wider art market. Forni will focus her comments on authorship and cultural authenticity.

Art & the Afterlife

Part 1—5:30-6:00 p.m.

Eric Adjetey Anang—artist-in-residence, UI Museum of Art

Cory Gundlach—UI Museum of Art

Part 2—6:00-6:30 p.m.

Christopher Roy—UI School of Art and Art History

Isabel Barbuzza—UI School of Art and Art History

Part 3—6:30-7:00 p.m.

Silvia Forni—Royal Ontario Museum

Eric Adjetey Anang—artist-in-residence, UI Museum of Art

WorldCanvass programs are recorded as audio podcasts and are available on iTunes, the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), and the WorldCanvass website. University of Iowa International Programs produces the series in partnership with MERGE, 136 South Dubuque Street. Audio production is provided by Kyle Marxen

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Amy Green in advance at or 319-335-1433.