Military Arts of the Fante

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Ghana; Fante peoples

Nana Manso

ca. 1940

Frankaa (Asafo flag)

Cotton cloth, appliqué

H. 98 cm (38 5/8")

Fowler Museum at UCLA, anonymous gift, X86.2056

The Fante word for flag (frankaa) is probably a corruption of either the English “flag” or of the Dutch “vlaggen,” suggesting in itself European origins for the flag tradition. The mass of national flags, naval banners, ensigns of trading companies, and regimental colors must have provided an impressive stimulus for flag production. Prior to Ghanaian independence in 1957 Asafo flags typically displayed the Union Jack in their cantons. The vast majority of flags proclaim the power of the flag's owners, generally at the expense of a rival company. The message of this flag is perhaps obvious, “When elephant steps on trap, no more trap.” Here, of course, the flag's owners identify with the elephant, while the trap represents their hapless foes.