By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

GhanaFante peoples

Asafo flag


W. 182.9 cm (72")

Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Acquisitions Fund, 1983.17

Certain art forms proclaim the militaristic powers of a kingdom or serve as emblems for military groups. Colorful appliquéd flags are among the insignia used by Asafo companies, traditional military organizations of the Fante people of coastal Ghana. Asafo constituted a counterpart to Fante royal authority: they served to maintain an internal balance of power and to defend the state militarily against external threats of war and invasion from foreigners and inland states like Asante. While Asafo no longer function militarily, they continue to flourish as social and fraternal organizations. Frankaa (flags) were owned collectively by each Asafo company to express group identity, solidarity, and creativity. They are commissioned and financed by each captain for the day of first investiture, and they are suspended from poles in a sculptural edifice serving as a military shrine. The imagery on Asafo flags is both allegorical and historical, and often relates to proverbs.

Flag dancer with guards of the flag No. 2 Company, Mankesim, FanteGhana, 1976. Photo by Doran H. Ross.