August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape: The first-ever exhibition dedicated to the life and works of August Wilson is now open! Learn More

Abebui Adekai: Proverb Boxes for a Life Well Traveled by Jacob Paa Joe Jr.

By Jacob Paa Joe Jr.
The Victoria Gallery, 1st Floor

Extended through 7/14 by popular demand!

Abebui Adekai: Proverb Boxes for a Life Well Traveled by Jacob Paa Joe Jr. is a new sculptural installation by Ghanaian artist and master craftsman, Jacob Tetteh-Ashong, also known as Paa Joe Jr. Featuring a newly created large-scale “fantasy coffin” with a selection of miniature sculptural boxes, Abebui Adekai: Proverb Boxes for a Life Well Traveled is a collaborative project and an opportunity to witness the process of creating a traditional Ghanaian figurative coffin in Pittsburgh for the first time while learning more about Paa Joe Coffin Works, and the Paa Joe Art Academy initiative in Accra, Ghana.

Abebui Adekai: Proverb Boxes for a Life Well Traveled by Jacob Paa Joe Jr. is inspired by August Wilson’s affinity for knickknacks and personal collection of rooster figurines, seen inside The Writer’s Landscape permanent exhibition, and evokes how Wilson uses the rooster as a symbol for his views of the Great Migration of African Americans who traveled from the agrarian South to industrial cities like Pittsburgh.

Proverb Boxes For A Life Well Traveled

About the Artist

JacobJacob Paa Joe Jr.

JacobJacob Paa Joe Sr.

Jacob Paa Joe Jr. is the son and apprentice of the workshop’s namesake Paa Joe, born Joseph Tetteh-Ashong in 1947. They belong to the Ga-Adangbe community, where the custom of Abebui Adekai—which in English means “proverb box” or “receptacle of proverbs”—began in the 1950s. For more than five decades specialized artisans in Ghana have served their communities, local and abroad, by constructing wooden coffins in the shapes of objects that best represent the life, professions, passions, and personalities of those to be buried. The process of choosing or commissioning the most appropriate vessel is personal and communal, often with families and close community members joining the artists to deliberate on the best craft in which their loved one will enter the afterlife. From majestic fantasy coffins shaped like Nike sneakers, cell phones, soaring birds, and lions, to pilots buried in airplanes, these works of art are the centerpiece for multi-day “homegoing” ceremonies where entire communities come to celebrate the life of the dearly departed. Paa Joe Coffin Works have exhibited their sculptures throughout the United States. After showcasing their art at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France, in 1989, Paa Joe’s work garnered worldwide acclaim. Paa Joe Jr.’s iconic coffins and accompanying miniatures have been displayed internationally, with recent appearances at the Chicago Architecture Biennale in 2023. Over time, his artistic repertoire has expanded to encompass smaller sculptural boxes and modern symbols such as mobile phones and coffins shaped like Air Jordan shoes. Paa Joe’s creations are featured in esteemed museum collections worldwide, including The Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The High Museum in Atlanta, and The British Museum.


Exhibition Preview & Artist Conversation with Thaddeus Mosley and Jacob Paa Joe Jr.
Wednesday, March 27, 5-7pm, Highmark Room, 2nd Floor
Join us for a preview of Abebui Adekai: Proverb Boxes for a Life Well Traveled, which will also feature a conversation between Jacob Paa Joe Jr. and internationally renowned Pittsburgh sculptor, Thaddeus Mosley.

Lit Friday Virtual Artist Talk
Friday, April 12, 6pm
Join us for a special edition of LIT Friday featuring artist Jacob Paa Joe Jr. of Paa Joe Coffin Works in conversation with scholar, poet, and AWAACC Literary Curator, Jessica Lanay. They will be discussing his new sculptural installation, Abebui Adekai: Proverb Boxes for a Life Well Traveled.

“Paa Joe & The Lion” Film Screening
Highlighting  the world’s greatest living fantasy coffin makers, Joseph Tetteh-Ashong and his son Jacob Paa Joe Jr., PAA JOE & THE LION takes viewers on a fantastical journey through the art of love and death as father and son, artist and apprentice, confront love, death and injury in a bid to rescue the Master craftsman’s legacy and rebuild their business before Paa Joe’s name disappears like his thousands of coffins that lie deep below the African soil. Directed by Benjamin Wigley.
$10 Suggested donation

Run time: 1 hour 9 minutes
Instagram: @paajoethelion  @paajoewks


Behind the Scenes of Abebui Adekai: Proverb Boxes for a Life Well Traveled by Jacob Paa Joe Jr.