Ataa Oko

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Ataa Oko and his third wife with a coffin in the shape of a ship, around 1960

Ataa Oko Addo (* around 1919 ; † December 9, 2012 in La, Greater Accra , Ghana ) was a Ghanaian coffin and litter maker and since 2004 an artist of Art brut .

Live and act

Ataa Oko was never allowed to go to school, instead his parents sent him out to sea as a fisherman at the age of 13, and later to the cocoa plantations in the Asante area. In 1936 he began his apprenticeship as a carpenter at Sowah Obu in Accra. After completing his training, Ataa Oko started his own business. He began to manufacture his first figural coffins as early as 1945. He was inspired by the figural sedan chairs that were used by the heads of the Ga in Accra as early as 1930. Today Ataa Oko is considered one of the pioneers of Ghanaian coffin art . In 1951 the master opened his first carpenter's workshop in La, where he made figurative coffins until 2006. He then devoted himself to drawing in collaboration and with the support of Regula Tschumi. On behalf of the ethnologist, he first painted his former figural coffins and sedan chairs, later religious rituals, and finally his dreams and ghosts, which he believed he was seeing. Ataa Oko painted until his death in December 2012. Some of his most important works are now in the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne.

Ataa Oko and Kudjoe Affutu with Oko's red rooster coffin 2009. Photo: Regula Tschumi

Solo and group exhibitions

  • 2020. Kunsthalle Hamburg , Hamburg: Mourning. Of loss and change .
  • 2017/18. Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne: 3rd Biennale de l'art brut: Corps .
  • 2017. ANO Gallery in Accra: Accra. Portraits of A City . An exhibition by Nana Oforiatta Ayim .
  • 2014. MUT Museum of the University of Tübingen : This side, the other side, the other side .
  • 2012/13. MEN Musée d'ethnographie de Neuchâtel : Hors-Champs .
  • 2011/12. Miracles of Africa , Hämeenlinna Art Museum, Hämeenlinna and Oulu Museum of Art, Oma, Finland.
  • 2011. Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich: Ghanaian 'fantasy coffin , Griff Rhys Jones.
  • 2010/11. Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne: Ataa Oko et les Esprits , solo exhibition.
  • 2006 and 2007/2008. Kunstmuseum Bern and German Hygiene Museum, Dresden: Six Feet Under: Autopsy of how we dealt with the dead .


  • Lucienne Peiry : The Flute of Ataa Oko. In: Outsider Art. Volume 3, Shanghai University Press, 2017, pp. 22–33, ISBN 978-7-5671-2640-4 (English, Chinese.).
  • Regula Tschumi : Ataa Oko. A glimpse inside the amazing world of Ghanaian funerals and how the carpenter Ataa Oko became an artist. 2017, online magazine Interwoven: the fabric of things.
  • Regula Tschumi: Hidden Art. The figural sedan chairs and coffins in Ghana. Edition Till Schaap, Bern 2014, ISBN 978-3-03828-098-9 , pp. 152-159.
  • Regula Tschumi: The Figurative Palanquins of the Ga. History and Significance. In: African Arts. 46, No. 4, 2013, pp. 60-73.
  • Musée d'ethnographie de Neuchâtel MEN (Ed.): Hors-champs. Exhibition catalog. Atelier PréTexte, Neuchâtel 2013 (French).
  • Lucienne Peiry (Ed.): Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne. Skira Flammarion 2012, pp. 26-27, 164.
  • Collection de l'Art Brut (Ed.): Ataa Oko. Exhibition catalog. Infolio, Gollion 2010 (French).
  • Regula Tschumi: The last honor comes first. Ghanaian burial rituals and figural coffins. In: Kunstmuseum Bern (ed.): Six Feet Under. Autopsy of our handling of the dead. Exhibition catalog. Kerber, Bielefeld / Leipzig 2006, pp. 114–125.
  • Regula Tschumi: The buried treasures of Ga. Coffin art from Ghana. Benteli 2006, pp. 126-161. (English: 2014 The buried treasures of the Ga: Coffin art in Ghana. Edition Till Schaap, Bern, ISBN 978-3-03828-016-3 , pp. 130–167).

Film, video presentations

  • 2010. Ataa Oko et les esprits. Philippe Lespinasse, Regula Tschumi , Andress Alvarez. Lausanne / Le Tourne, Parti de l'Art Brut / LoKomotiv Films, 20 minutes, (French, English subtitles).
  • 2009. Sépulture sur mesure , Philippe Lespinasse, Grand Angle Production. Photo and video archives Regula Tschumi (French).
  • 2006-07. Video presentations: The old master Ataa Oko making the hen coffin and The buried treasures of the Ga . Film impressions in the exhibition "Six Feet Under" in the Kunstmuseum Bern and the German Hygiene Museum Dresden as well as in the Forum Théâtre-Meyrin near Geneva.

Web links

Commons : Ataa Oko  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ( page no longer available , search in web archives: Miracles of Africa ) 2Template: Dead Link /
  2. An Audience with Griff Rhys Jones and his Ghanaian 'fantasy coffin' at the Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts
  3. Ataa Oko