Born 1954, Teshie, Ghana
Lives and works in Teshie, Ghana

Samuel Kane Kwei upholds his father’s tradition of decorating coffins in a manner which reflect upon the life of the deceased. Kane Kwei (1922-1992) was trained as a cabinet maker, and in 1951 he opened his own workshop in Teshie, a fishing village on the outskirts of Accra. He built his first decorated coffin—in the shape of a dugout—for one of his uncles, a fisherman who had owned flotilla of them. He dedicated himself from then on to this new funerary art and worked, secluded, almost exclusively for the elders of his clan. The art dealer Vivian Burns introduced his work to American audiences in 1974; over the last thirty years his sculptures and those of his workshop have made an original contribution to the tradition of funerary cults in Western Africa—they have also been collected and exhibited internationally.

Samuel was trained in his father’s workshop, along with other apprentices, and he has made coffins that closely follow his father’s prototypes. For example, Kane Kwei had first carved an onion-shaped coffin for one of the village elders who had made a fortune in growing onions, a staple of the local diet, and Samuel has continued to produce coffins in this form. Another popular form that has been carried down from father to son is that of a white Mercedes Benz, originally conceived as a coffin for an owner of a fleet of taxis, but also used for other wealthy customers. However, Samuel Kane Kwei has also explored other possibilities, creating sculptures that reflect upon more up-to-date aspects of popular culture and daily life. He has also worked freely for more Western clients, creating sculptures that are not intended for funerary use.

With contributions from Thierry Secretan

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

1998
Kane Kwei
MAMCO
Geneva, Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art.
Geneva, Switzerland.

1997
Wie das Leben, so der Sarg...Nam June Paik
Ifa Gallery
Bonn & Stuttgart, Germany.

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2005
Arts of Africa
Grimaldi Forum
Monaco - France

2005
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Houston - USA

2003
Ghana: hier et aujourd’hui
Musée Dapper
Paris - France

1998
AFRICA Vibrant New Art from a Dynamic Continent.
Tobu Museum of Art, Tokyo. Japan.

1996
Neue Kunst aus Africa
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Berlin, Germany.

1996
Design im Wandel
Herausgegeben von Alessandro Mendini ÛBERSEE Museum
Bremen, Germany.

1993
Skissen eines Projektes
AUSSTELLUNG Auf der Suche : Afrika
Afrika Im Ludwig Forum für internationale Kunst
Ludwig, Germany.

1991
Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art
New Museum of Contemporary Art New York, U.S.A.
Dallas Museum of Art, U.S.A.
Saint Louis Art Museum, U.S.A.
Mint Museum of Art, U.S.A.

1989
Magiciens de la Terre
Georges Pompidou Center, La Grande Halle de la Villette
Paris, France.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

2005
African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell.

2003
Ghana: hier et aujourd’hui
Exhibition catalogue. Musée Dapper

1997
Wie das Leben, so der Sarg... Nam June Paik.
Exhibition catalogue, texts in German.
Intitut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart.

1996
Contemporary Art of Africa
Kane Kwei by Jean-Hubert Martin p.76, text in English.
Edited by André Magnin & Jacques Soulillou
Publisher Harry N. Abraams.

1994
" Il fait sombre, va t'en ". Cercueils au Ghana.
Text in French by Thierry Secretan.
Edition : Hazan.

1993
Skissen eines Projektes
AUSSTELLUNG Auf der Suche : Afrika
Afrika Im Ludwig Forum.
Exhibition catalogue. Text in German.

1993
KUNSTFORUM AFRICA IWALEWA International (122)
AFRIKANISCHE KUNST HEUTE BOOK
Text by A.Magnin p.165 -Kane Kwei p.278- p.279.