Military Arts of the Fante

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Asafo company costuming, No. 2 Company, Anomabu, Fante, Ghana, 1974. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

Asafo displays occur at various times; annual yam festivals, the funerals of members, the installation of a chief, or the “outdooring” of a new shrine may all prompt Asafo performances. Still the most important Asafo celebration in many states is the akwambo (annual path-clearing festival) that literally involves the clearing of paths to the town’s major deities, generally sited near local rivers. Asafo festive dress runs the gamut from careful copies of police and military uniforms, to patterned cloths related to company emblems, to absolutely fanciful creations out of the imaginations of their makers. Here a few members of No. 2 Company, Anomabu, wear fake leopard skin outfits, and pose next to a cement leopard on the corner of their shrine.