The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Military Arts of the Fante

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Posuban (cement shrine), built by Kojo Abban in 1936, renovated by Kwame Munko ca. 1970. Gomoa Legu, Fante, Ghana, 1976. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

One of two prosperous Asafo companies in this coastal village, No. 2 Company takes the elephant, lion, equestrian figure, and World War II soldier as their principal emblems. At the four corners of this shrine are soldiers in World War II uniforms. Many Fante served in the Gold Coast Regiment that fought in East Africa and Burma during the war. At annual festivals one subgroup of No. 2 Company dresses in contemporary versions of these uniforms while rival No. 1 Company assumes naval and nautical garb. The man holding the scales is a named asafohen (leader or captain) of the company, and the image is explained by a proverb, “When you are going to fight, you must weigh your enemy,” which is reiterated by the painted scales on the shrine above the Fante phrase for “You must weigh war.”