The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Military Arts of the Fante

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Posuban (cement shrine), built and sculpted by Kweku Attah. Mankesim, Fante, Ghana, 1979. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

The town of Mankesim (not to be confused with Gomoa Mankesim) is considered the point of dispersion for the Fante peoples who now occupy most of the coastal regions of south central Ghana. On the bottom level of the shrine are four over life-sized figures that represent culture heroes from the Fante past. Emblazoned on the front of the posuban is the challenge, “Come and try whoever will.” Fante Asafo companies maintain certain colors, patterns of cloth, and emblems for their exclusive use. Violation of the artistic prerogatives of one company by another has been the cause of armed conflicts in the past and is still a point of contention. On the top center of this shrine is a multi-headed dragon that invariably represents the challenge, “Will you fly off, will you vanish.” In other words, there is no way for an enemy or rival to escape (See Ross 1980, 1996a).