“Paa Joe: Gates of No Return”
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Based in the Ghanian capital of Accra, Paa Joe (a coffin maker by trade) has become internationally famous for caskets carved into elaborate figurative shapes—which, depending on a client’s wishes, can include anything from Coca-Cola bottles and sneakers to fanciful fish and fowl (not to mentions lions, leopards, etc.). In 2004–2005, Paa Joe was commissioned to create these architectural models depicting the castles and forts that served the slave trade along Ghana’s South Atlantic Gold Coast between the 16th and 19th centuries. Known as the “Gates of No Return” these outposts were points of departure for the infamous Middle Passage that saw six million African slaves shipped to America and the Caribbean—of which ten to 15 percent died en route. Set on the floor here, the sculptures are rendered in exquisite detail, and are painted in the historical accurate palette whose bright colors mask the deadly purpose of these buildings.