By Nii B. Andrews.

Atta Oko Addo of La had a long and illustrious working life as a fisherman, carpenter, sculptor and graphic artist.

Around 1945, he made his first figurative coffins, a genre which has since become famous on the international art circuit; other pioneer Ghanaian exemplars of the canon are Paa Joe and the late Kane Kwei.

Ataa Oko Addo was born in 1912 and trained as a carpenter apprentice from 1936.

As he reached past his 70s, he hardly made any coffins but turned his attention to drawing.

His repertoire consisted of brightly colored and animated compositions that featured imaginary creatures, monsters and fantastic animals.

It was reported that he started drawing after he had been contacted by the ethnology researcher – Regula Tschumi, in 2002; she encouraged him to draw.

His paintings were a window into his fertile imagination.

He explained the compositions in long oral stories which at their core involved the epic struggle between good and evil.

Addo reported that the  spiritual beings in his artwork were malevolent; they often did bad things; they ate and killed each other, stole fruits from the trees of their neighbors and seduced each other’s women.

Dare we assume that his malicious beings were all male?

At the end of 2010, Ataa Oko Addo suffered a severe stroke and lost his speech completely, and he could no longer draw for several months.[***neurology alert – the left side of the brain commonly controls speech and the right hand]

By 2012, he was physically very weak but continued to draw; he sketched and the coloring was executed by Kofi, his talented son.

After Ataa Oko passed on later that year, his son who died suddenly several months later, left a sizable number of Ataa Oko’s sketches uncolored.

Regula Tschumi went on to author a book on Ataa Oko’s work.

MAGNIN-A Gallery based in Paris, has announced its participation in AKAA which will be held from November 12 to 14 at the Carreau du Temple during which it will present works by Ataa Oko.

At this event, the author Regula Tschumi will sign copies of the book “Ataa Oko Addo” published by Editions Clandestin at the gallery’s booth on Thursday, November 11 from 4:00 pm.


  1. Wow !!! this is remarkable. It reminds me of so much of Native Canadian art. There are many similarities between their culture and ours.

  2. Thanks. Had never heard of his art work,apart from the coffins. The man was talented.
    Wish I could own one of his pieces.

  3. Wow too inspirational! Love the narrative. Would like to see the book one day . TFS. 🙏🏾

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